Potentially resulting in blindness, glaucoma can’t be cured but it can be controlled. We look at how glaucoma affects your eyes and uncover some interesting facts about the condition.
A group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, glaucoma is generally associated with raised pressure in the eye. However almost half of sufferers have eye pressures within a normal range. Regardless of your pressure, the condition gets progressively worse and, if left untreated, can lead to blindness.
Primary open-angle glaucoma
Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), caused by raised pressure in the eye, is the most common form of glaucoma in South Africa. There is constantly a clear fluid that drains in and out of the front section of your eye in an area called the anterior chamber. “The fluid leaves the chamber at the open angle where the cornea and iris meet,” according to the National Eye Institute. “When the fluid reaches the angle, it flows through a spongy meshwork, like a drain, and leaves the eye (it stays in the body). In open-angle glaucoma, even though the drainage angle is “open”, the fluid passes too slowly through the meshwork drain.” Raised pressure results when the eye’s drainage canals become blocked causing a fluid build-up that damages the optic nerve.
Angle-closure glaucoma results when the angle gets blocked by part of the iris. The fluid at the front of the eye cannot drain through the angle and leave the eye (back into the body).
Early detection is always key, says Professor Grant McLaren, an ophthalmologist at The Wits University Donald Gordon Medical Centre. Treatment options include a strict regimen of medication and eye drops, laser treatment or an operation. “Without treatment patients go blind because the pressure is too high too often for the optic nerve to tolerate.”