Understanding Glaucoma. Prevention and management


Glaucoma is regarded as a “silent and very gradual sight stealer” because, the loss of vision often occurs gradually over a long period of time and symptoms appear only when the disease is quite advanced. This “sight stealer” represents a variety of ocular diseases that cause damage to the eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time as a result of a build-up of pressure inside the eye. The disease ultimately leads to increase in the intraocular pressure and reduction in visual acuity.  Usually, the lost sight cannot be recovered; so treatment is aimed at preventing and eliminating avoidable blindness or lost of sight.

Studies show that glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world. It affects one in 200 people aged 50 and younger and one in 10 people over the age of eighty. If this eye defect is detected early enough, it is possible to arrest the development or slow the progression with medical and surgical interventions.

Glaucoma tends to be inherited and may not show up until later in life. The increased pressure called intraocular pressure, can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. If the damage to the optic nerve from high eye pressure continues without treatment, glaucoma will cause total permanent loss of vision within a few years. It should be emphasized that early detection, expert medical investigation and prompt intervention will interrupt glaucoma progression and complications.


Glaucoma refers to a group of ocular defects that affect vision by damaging the optic nerve which carries visual information from the eye to the brain. In most cases, the damage to the optic nerve is due to increased pressure also known as intraocular pressure in the eye. In simple terms, glaucoma is regarded as a disease condition that can cause loss of vision because of abnormal high pressure in the eye compartment. This ocular defect usually attacks both eyes, but it may involve each eye to a varying extent. It describes a group of eye disorders that usually have few or no initial symptoms and is characterized by poor optical nerve response, leading to progressive damage or eventual harm to the optic nerve that connects vision information to the perception cells of the brain.

Most often, glaucoma is associated with higher-than-normal pressure inside the eye (ocular hypertension). If untreated or uncontrolled, glaucoma first causes peripheral vision loss which is normally associated with increased fluid (aqueous humour) pressure in the eye. Eventually this pressure can lead to permanent damage of the optic nerve and lost of visual field, which over time can progress to blindness or loss of vision in the affected eye(s).


Hereditary factors, abnormal eye development, systemic disease, certain drugs and trauma are major causes of glaucoma in the eye(s). The four major types of glaucoma are open-angle (chronic) glaucoma, angle-closure (acute) glaucoma, congenital glaucoma and secondary glaucoma. This article is focusing on the first three types of glaucoma.


Open-Angle Glaucoma

Is the most occurring type of glaucoma, accounting for about 90% cases. This is a slow and lifelong eye disorder which creates a wide and open angle between the iris and the cornea. It is caused by the gradual clogging of the eye drainage channels resulting to an increased internal eye pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve.   Here most people have no symptoms. However, there may be signs and symptoms of slow loss of sight (peripheral) vision or visual field which can lead to blindness.

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

It can be acute or chronic eye defect caused by increased pressure in the frontal eye chamber as a result of sudden (acute) or progressively slow (chronic) blockage of eye drainage canals. It occurs suddenly when the coloured portion of the eye (iris) is pushed or pulled forward, causing blockage of the drainage angle of the eye.


The signs and symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma may come and go at first or steadily become worse. There may be sudden and severe pain in one eye, decreased or cloudy vision often called “steamy” vision, nausea, vomiting, rainbow-like halos around lights, red eye, swollen eye(s) and blurred vision.

Congenital Glaucoma

It is called infantile or babies and young children’s glaucoma which is mostly diagnosed at the first year of life or between birth and 36 months. This disorder which is caused by improper development of the eye’s drainage system before birth is rare and may be inherited.  Globally it occurs in about 25% of infants.

Symptoms and signs of this type of glaucoma are usually noticed when the child is a few months old. There may be cloudiness and enlargement of the cornea, red eye(s), squeezing or spasm of eyelids, abnormal sensitivity to light and excessive tearing.


In all types of glaucoma, the eventual target is to reduce the intraocular pressure by using appropriate eye treatments as soon as possible to improve the outflow of aqueous humour from the eye and or to reduce the production of aqueous humour. Surgery, drainage implants and other treatment procedures could be used to return the pressure in the eye(s) to normal. An estimated 670 million people worldwide are blind or visually impaired simply because they do not have access to early eye examination and prescribed eyeglasses. Fortunately, early detection, prompt treatment and regular monitoring can help to control glaucoma, preserve vision and ultimately reduce the chances of progression to vision lost.  Loss of vision is the main complication of glaucoma. This is why early diagnosis and treatment is so important.


People should avoid much cola nut, coffee and other food items that contain Caffeine which increases intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. Prolonged use of steroids without expert medical attention and counseling should be avoided. Avoid discontinuing discomforting eye medications without first consulting an eye care professional for possible alternative. Sedentary lifestyle which could increase glaucoma risk and cigarette smoking should be avoided. It is important to avoid severe eye trauma, tumor and inflammation which can result to further increase in eye pressure due to internal damage. Avoid injuries which can dislocate the eye lens, close the drainage angle and increase intraocular pressure that precipitates glaucoma.


It is important to note that your sight depends on a timely consultation with the right eye care professional. Eye care specialists should be contacted immediately if the above signs and symptoms are noticed, for a complete eye examination that may confirm glaucoma or otherwise. People should readily go for dilated eye examination at least once a year for glaucoma to be diagnosed and treated before long-term visual loss occurs. All adults should have regular eyes check-ups and screening before age 40 and people over 40 should have an eye test every two years to check preventable blindness from glaucoma because some people may have high eye pressure for years and never develop damage, while others can develop optic nerve damage at a relatively low intraocular pressure. It is relevant for people to engage in regular moderate physical exercise, and maintain a healthy diet and weight. It is then very essential to be aware of this information on glaucoma to enable the public make better informed decision as major partners in their eyes care and management.

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