Expert’s Guide Through Glaucoma Definition, Symptoms, Treatments, and Prevention
Eye conditions are quite common among people of all ages, and their treatment can be successful if the disease is discovered on time.
Unfortunately, most conditions come with no symptoms that would announce any change but result in slow and gradual vision loss, which requires more serious treatments, such as surgeries.
Glaucoma could be one of the examples that encompass the mentioned symptoms. The fact that more than 200.000 Americans get sick from such disease every year seems intimidating and makes us understand the importance of healthy eyes, good vision, and regular examinations.
The following post will provide you with all the essential data about glaucoma symptoms, causes, prevention, and treatment methods that have given positive results so far.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma falls under the category of serious eye conditions that can cause blindness.
It damages the eye nerve responsible for carrying the information from your eyes to the visual center in the brain, which is usually caused by high pressure in your eye. Such damage can result in permanent vision loss.
People over the age of 60 are more prone to this eye condition, but there are cases where the signs of glaucoma showed at an early age. Accordingly, it’s vital to have regular and comprehensive eye examinations since that’s the only way to discover and treat any eye disease with success. Glaucoma can’t be cured, but if you start the treatment as soon as you discover it, you can preserve the eyesight and prevent further damage.
What Causes Glaucoma?
One of the main glaucoma causes is the damage of the optic nerve, which is, according to doctors, a consequence of increased eye pressure.
Extremely high pressure in the eye is usually caused by the accumulation of a fluid that flows throughout the inside of your eye. Such fluid drains typically out through tissue (trabecular meshwork) at the angle where the iris and cornea meet, but if it’s overproduced or drainage system doesn’t work properly, the fluid can’t flow out as it usually does, which is why the eye pressure increases.
Another factor that can cause glaucoma lies in genes. Namely, scientists have discovered genes that are related to elevated eye pressure, and they are mostly the reason why this particular disease often runs in families.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
The signs of glaucoma are mostly subtle – they cause no pain nor any changes until you notice that your vision becomes reduced.
However, the symptoms will mostly depend on the type of glaucoma – some types will bring sudden and severe symptoms of blurry vision, eye pain, and even nausea, while some other won’t be noticeable until the advanced stage.
Even if you don’t notice any symptoms, routine eye exams can detect the changes in eye pressure and prevent the development of the disease.
What are the Most Common Types of Glaucoma?
There is not only one type of glaucoma, but it develops in different levels and brings various symptoms and consequences.
There are two most common types of glaucoma:
Open angle glaucoma is the most common form of this eye condition. Its symptoms are mostly unnoticeable, and you may even lose vision before you become aware of the problem.
It comes as a result of the partially blocked trabecular meshwork, which causes the elevation of the eye pressure, and thus, the damage of the optic nerve.
Angle-closure glaucoma, also known as closed angle glaucoma, arises when the iris bulges forward and blocks the drainage angle formed by the cornea and iris.
When that occurs, fluid can’t circulate throughout the eye, and the pressure becomes enormously higher.
There are two types of closed angle glaucoma:
- Acute closed angle glaucoma: This condition is caused by a sudden increase in intraocular pressure (IOP), which is why you may face blurred vision, eye pain, headache, and nausea. This condition requires immediate medical treatment that involves laser therapy or surgery.
- Chronic closed angle glaucoma: Unlike acute angle-closure glaucoma, the chronic condition occurs gradually, and patients may face ocular redness, blurred vision, and headaches.
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Apart from these two common types of glaucoma, other forms should be mentioned as well:
Normal-tension or low-tension glaucoma occurs even when your eye pressure is within the normal range. The exact reason for that is still unknown, but it is assumed that people who suffer from it have a sensitive optic nerve, or less blood being supplied to the optic nerve.
The limited blood flow can be caused by many conditions that impair circulation, such as atherosclerosis or the buildup of fatty acids in the arteries.
Congenital or developmental glaucoma mostly occurs in children and infants. It may be present from birth or develop in the first couple of years of life, and it’s usually a consequence of a defect in the drainage angle that doesn’t allow the fluid to exit the eye normally.
The most common symptoms of congenital glaucoma are watery eyes, cloudy corneas, and light sensitivity.
Pigmentary glaucoma occurs when the pigment granules from your iris accumulate in the drainage channels, slowing or blocking fluid exiting your eye.
Many everyday activities can cause the onset of this condition – for example, focusing your eyes to read and sports activities such as jogging. The mentioned activities usually elevate the eye pressure that affects the optic nerve, which is why all the patients are advised to consult their ophthalmologist before starting any exercise program.
Secondary glaucoma occurs due to complications that arise from particular medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, other eye conditions, including cataracts or uveitis, side effects of medications, or trauma to the eye.
How to Get a Glaucoma Diagnosis?
As soon as you start noticing some of the mentioned symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor and do the eye examination.
Apart from the routine eye exam, your doctor may perform some of the following tests:
- Tonometry – Measuring intraocular pressure (IOP).
- Visual Field Test – Checking for areas of vision loss.
- Pachymetry – Measuring corneal thickness.
- Gonioscopy – Inspecting the drainage angle.
The ophthalmologist will also test for optic nerve damage by performing a dilated eye examination and imaging tests.
What is the Most Efficient Glaucoma Treatment?
As mentioned earlier in this article, there is no exact glaucoma cure. As the optic nerve damages, its chances for regenerations are quite limited, which is also the case with other central nervous system regions – however, that doesn’t mean that glaucoma can’t be treated.
If it’s discovered on time, the consequences of this condition can be successfully reduced. Almost every glaucoma treatment is aimed at lowering the eye pressure, and depending on your situation, you may be prescribed eye drops, oral medications, or surgery. Still, you can always try some forms of alternative medicine, which has shown excellent results so far.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
Alternative medicine has proven its efficiency in treating even the most severe eye conditions, including macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and diabetic retinopathy.
Unlike most of the medical approaches that are aimed at treating the disease itself, Eastern medicine tends to recover the entire body and retrieve the balance that somehow lost its path.
Accordingly, acupuncture for glaucoma is one of the most effective treatment in slowing down and even stopping the progression of the disease. Namely, the entire treatment focuses on healing the person and not the disease itself, and it aims to revitalize the person’s energy, which is the factor most responsible for maintaining the overall health.
A certified glaucoma specialist can help improve blood flow and nerve conductivity of the entire body, which means that patients will feel improvements in all the spheres of their health, not only in the eyes.
The specialized field of glaucoma acupuncture is Micro Acupuncture, which involves 48 acupuncture points located in the hands and feet. This approach is especially vital for treating pain and eye diseases.
The final results of the acupuncture depend on how the patients respond to treatment and their co-existing health issues. However, even 85% of patients have responded positively to the treatment so far, which is quite a satisfying result.
The total amount of treatments also depends on patients and their overall condition and progress. That said, all the patients should have their vision testing done before they begin with the procedures, as well as after that, since that’s the best way to measure the improvement.
Your practitioner will recommend Chinese herbs and natural supplements such as Ginkgo Biloba, fish oil, lutein, L-taurine, and zeaxanthin. That way, the entire acupuncture process will be more effective.
Even if someone has told you that there is no solution for your disease, you shouldn’t give up – the combination of acupuncture and Chinese medicine may be the way to recover not only your vision but also the overall health that will bring significant mental and physical improvements.
The first treatment you’ll probably get is the eyedrops. They will lower the eye pressure by improving the way the fluid drains from your eye, or by decreasing the amount of fluid your eyes make.
Depending on your overall eye condition, you may use some of the following eyedrop medications:
- Prostaglandins – Increase the outflow of the fluid in your eyes.
- Beta-Blockers – Reduce the production of fluid in the eyes.
- Alpha-Adrenergic Agonists – Reduce the production of aqueous humor (fluid) and impact the outflow of fluid in the eyes.
- Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors – Reduce the production of fluid in the eyes.
- Rho Kinase Inhibitors – Lower eye pressure by repressing the rho kinase enzymes for the fluid increase.
- Miotic Agents – Increase the outflow fluid from your eyes.
Despite their efficiency, eye drops can cause some side effects since they’re absorbed into your bloodstream. They are usually harmless, but if you notice something unusual, consult your doctor immediately.
Sometimes, using only the eyedrops isn’t enough, which is why your doctor may prescribe some oral medications that would enhance the treatment efficiency.
Such medications are usually carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, which reduce the production of eye fluids and promote the renal excretion of sodium, potassium, bicarbonate, and water. You may face some side effects that include frequent urination, depression, tingling in the fingers and toes, kidney stones, and stomach upset.
Another treatment for glaucoma includes surgery, which is mostly done with laser. Some of the most common surgical procedures are:
- Laser Therapy – The best option for patients who deal with open-angle glaucoma. The surgeon will use a small laser to open clogged channels in the trabecular meshwork.
- Filtering Surgery – This procedure involves an opening in the white of the eye to remove part of the trabecular meshwork.
- Drainage Tubes – This is the procedure where the surgeon inserts a small tube into your eye in order to drain the excess fluid away and lower the eye pressure.
- Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery – The MIGS is quite a common solution for lowering eye pressure, and it’s often combined with cataract surgery.
How to Prevent Glaucoma?
The methods for glaucoma prevention mostly include some self-care steps that can help you detect glaucoma in its early stages, and thus, prevent its progression that brings permanent consequences.
Change Your Lifestyle and Get Rid of Bad Habits
Making improvements in your lifestyle is the first step you should consider. Healthy habits can bring significant positive changes to your way of life, and they can prevent the progression of any disease in your organism, including eye conditions.
If you start with a healthy diet and moderate exercises, you’ll notice the reduction of stress and anxiety, the two biggest culprits for disbalance and development of different conditions.
Do Regular Dilated Eye Examinations
Dilated eye examinations are comprehensive eye checks that allow the doctor to examine the health of the optic nerve and retina thoroughly.
Such exams include pupil dilation, which is an essential step for preventing and treating eye conditions that can lead to vision loss. That said, it’s recommended to have such examination every 5 to 10 years if you’re under 40, and a bit more frequently if you’re over 45.
If the doctor notices that you’re at risk of glaucoma, he or she should provide the right screening that would deliver valuable information about the current condition.
Learn More about Your Family’s Eye History
As mentioned earlier in the article, glaucoma frequently runs in families.
Therefore, if someone who’s related to you suffers from glaucoma, you should have more frequent examinations and screenings to determine whether you are at risk as well.
Exercise with Caution
Knowing that you’re at risk of this particular disease means that you should consult your doctor about the right activity that wouldn’t affect your eye pressure.
This is especially essential for those who’re prone to pigmentary glaucoma since it mostly comes as a result of higher eye pressure caused by vigorous exercises and eye strain. Your eye practitioner can provide you with a valuable piece of advice regarding the training you can do.
Take Your Medications Regularly
It’s essential to continue with your prescribed treatment, such as eye drops or oral medications since that’s the best way of lowering your eye pressure.
Besides, you shouldn’t stop taking them even if there are no visible symptoms or if you have begun with the acupuncture therapies. Namely, many people who have started acupuncture treatments expect to see the results overnight, which isn’t quite possible.
However, it may pass several months until you notice the improvements, which is why it is essential to be patient and persistent. Your body needs some time to wake up the energy flow, but once it does it, you can be sure that all the consequences of your disease will be reduced.
Wear Adequate Eye Protection
Eye injuries happen quite often, and they are also one of the frequent glaucoma causes.
That said, make sure you wear right eye protection when you’re working with power tools or playing racquet sports in enclosed courts since that’s an effective way of protecting your eyes from potential traumas.
You’re especially advised to take these prevention steps if you fall under some of the following categories:
- Having high intraocular pressure
- Being over 60
- Having a family history of glaucoma
- Having diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure
- Your corneas are thin in the center
- Being extremely farsighted or nearsighted
- You have had an eye injury or any eye surgery
- You’ve been taking corticosteroid medication for a long time (especially eyedrops)
Makari Wellness – Your Eye Conditions are Our Concern
The goal of the powerful combination of Eastern and Western medicine performed by certified acupuncture practitioners from Makari Wellness is to retain remaining eyesight through maintenance treatments.
Our treatments involve the practice of the most efficient Micro Acupuncture 48 techniques, specifically aimed at stopping the progression of degenerative eye conditions.
By approaching the patient’s energy and their overall health instead of focusing on the disease only, we provide solutions for conditions that are considered incurable and hopeless.