Yes, our eyes are our windows to the soul, but they are also one of our most important organs of sense. Obviously, the other four senses play a huge role in helping forge our daily impressions, but it is the vision that allows them to be connected into a meaningful whole.
Among the smallest organs in the entire body, the eye itself consists of 11 significant components with each one delivering its own required function to enable optimal vision. The first layer of the eye is referred to as the Tear Layer and its purpose is to keep the eye moist. The second structure is the Cornea, and while its primary job is to provide most of the eye’s optical power, it also acts like a literal window by converging the light rays entering the eye. Then comes the Anterior Chamber which is home to the aqueous, the clear watery fluid responsible for nourishing the cornea, iris, and lens. Speaking of iris, this is what gives color to the eye and additionally functions more or less like a camera in that it controls the amount of light entering to and fro. The Lens, quite self-explanatorily, helps bring rays of light to focus on the retina. While we can spend quite a bit more time on the remaining components, let’s highlight the value of the Optic Nerve which although located in the back of the eye, plays a very central role in the development of glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Consisting of over one million nerve fibers, the sole purpose of the optic nerve is to help transfer, via electrical impulses, the visual information from the retina to the vision centers of the brain. So it can be safely sufficed that the optic nerve is extremely important. And judging by experience, anytime anything even remotely small happens to something this integral, great loss is imminent. Such is the case here. Glaucoma is loosely described as a disease that usually occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of your eye and damages your optic nerve.
Types of Glaucoma
Referred to as the more common type, this one happens gradually when the eye does not drain the fluid as well as it is required to do so. Consistent progress of this kind of optic nerve damage can eventually lead to irreversible visual loss which is extremely unfortunate when realized that this can be halted with the right form of treatment. But the difficult bit here is that there are no precise warning signs or symptoms in the early stages. It is only when blind spots begin developing in your peripheral (side) vision that one realizes the disease in fact exists. It can occur both as an adult-onset disease (occurring after 40 years of age) or as juvenile-onset disease (occurring between the ages of 3 and 40 years). While the exact cause of primary-open glaucoma can not be pinpointed, certain genetic factors have been identified. Like several other disorders, age, race and family history come into play potential causes.
People with myopia, diabetes, and hypertension are more prone to developing the symptoms some time in their life. Corneal thickness and stiffness measurements are taken into consideration as is elevated intraocular pressure. The less stiff the cornea and the higher the pressure, the more risk that person has of developing the disease.
Remember the clear liquid inside the front part of the eye? Well when a person’s iris happens to be too close for comfort to this area, a blockage can occur leading to increasingly high eye pressure. If this “acute attack” happens to occur, immediately seek out an ophthalmologist because if left untreated, you will be in danger of losing your sight. So let’s revert and recheck what you should be looking for in order to prevent this entire scenario. If your vision is blurry, you have severe eye pain, you’re experiencing a bad headache, you’re feeling nauseous, you throw up and most importantly of all, if you see rainbow-colored halos around lights, call for help. Although this condition is rarer, it tends to develop much more quickly so you need to be one step ahead.
Now that we’ve become best pals with the causes and symptoms of this unpleasant disease, we need to familiarise ourselves with potential treatment plans. While it will be tempting to save time and money by going through just a glaucoma screening that only checks eye pressure, do understand that the only sure way to diagnose glaucoma is with a comprehensive eye exam. In the exam, there will be several other key check-ups done besides the eye pressure measurement. Your ophthalmologist will inspect your eye’s drainage angle, examine your optic nerve for damage, test your peripheral (side) vision and even measure the thickness of your cornea.
Chronic glaucoma’s first mode of treatment is often eye drops. Instructed to use every day, these drops are meant to bring down the elevated eye pressure. While some particular ones reduce the over-fluidity of the eye, others are required to ensure a smoother fluid flow through the drainage angle. While they are prescribed in the best interests of the patient, do realize that just like other medication, side effects may occur. These can range anywhere from an itchy sensation in the eye to changes in your pulse and heartbeat and from a dry mouth to eyelash growth even (although this might just count as a plus point). Whatever the case, you know your body and when things are not looking right, talk to your ophthalmologist, Do not stop your medication without consulting your doctor because remember glaucoma medication is there to help you keep your vision.
If we have reached this stage, cleary the medication was not able to complete its mission. In such regards, laser surgery takes form, Trabeculoplasty becomes available to open-angle glaucoma patients and Iridotomy is offered to those suffering from angle-closure glaucoma.
During this surgical procedure, while the patient is anesthetized, the surgeon makes a small hole in the eyewall, enabling the fluid to drain at a reasonable rate to a small reservoir just under the eye surface. By doing so, the pressure on the optic nerve is relieved and the chance of further damage and eventual loss of vision is drastically reduced.
Just before you are ready to be operated, anesthetizing drops will be used to numb the surface of the eye. This medical procedure uses a laser device to create a hole in the outer edge of the iris, leading to an opening of the angle and increasing the flow of fluid required. About 30-60 minutes after the procedure, your eye pressure will be checked and you will be informed about the post-care steps which will include wearing a patch over the affected eye for several days and using eye drops to minimize the risk of eye infection.
Let’s be honest. Regular eye exams are not the first priority for most people, especially in this age of over-scheduled calendars and faster than light meetings. But stop for a second and ponder the fact that one day you might just lose the ability to see and all because you didn’t provide consistent optimal care for your eyes. Don’t wait for your eyesight to weaken or for a pressurized sensation to occur. Qualified ophthalmologists are on-site at Spanish Eye Clinic to help you with everything from initial consultations, comprehensive eye exams, and top-of-the-line treatment options. Don’t let glaucoma become your reality.