Glaucoma: A Guide to the Cause, Testing and Treatment Options

Glaucoma, a condition of vision loss resulting from optic nerve damage. Sometimes resulting from increased optical pressure and, at other times, caused by injury. Within increased incidences of occurrence, understanding risk factors, the deterioration process for developing glaucoma and the treatment options may help to decrease the level of occurrence.

Statistically, glaucoma affects adults over the age of 60 and African Americans six to eight times more likely than individuals under the age of 60 and of different race. A family history of glaucoma also adds a significant increase in the incidence of occurrence at a rate of four to nine times. Use of steroids, as in the treatment of asthma, has also shown an occurrence of up to 40 percent likelihood. And, of course, any significant eye injury, will increase the risk for the condition.

Glaucoma is the term for visual loss resulting from optic nerve damage. Normally, this damage results from elevated eye pressure resulting from the eye’s inability to drain intraocular fluid. Intraocular fluid is produced by the cilary body which flows through the pupil area and then drains through the canals which surround the edge of the iris. Under normal conditions, this drainage process occurs without incident, resulting in normal eye pressure and fluid reabsorbed into the bloodstream. When this process does not occur properly, the intraocular fluid pressure will build resulting in optic nerve damage thus leading to glaucoma.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for a glaucoma condition. Optometry recommendations list eye exams as necessary every two years with test including perimetry, a visual field test, gonioscopy, iris angle measurements, pachymetry, to measure corneal thickness, tonometry, to measure eye pressure, opthalmoscopy, an exam of the color and shape of the optic nerve. Of course, all of these tests are not routinely part of the eye exam, but, once identified as a patient with IOP, these follow up tests are recommended to monitor the progression of the disease.

Even with no cure, there are treatment options available to reduce intraocular pressure and reduce progression of the disease. As a natural choice, a glaucoma patient may consider reducing caffeine intake, exercise regularly including 40 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week, and consume eight glasses of water, in small quantities, throughout the day. Activities involving inverted head position or “head-down” position, as in Yoga and Pilates, should be avoided. Supplements of Vitamin A, C, E, Zinc and Copper are also recommended along with sessions of biofeedback and mediation to reduce hypertension. All of the natural treatment choices will improve overall health and reduce the progression of the disease.

Home treatment options may also be supplemented with a prescribed treatment program from your physician. Treatment may include eye drops or a plan more invasive to include laser eye surgery or filtering microsurgery. Laser eye surgery, as the preferred method, utilized a laser light beam to create small scars within the eye which allows fluid to flow more freely. When not successful, your physician may opt for filtering microsurgery which creates a drainage hole within the eye as an alternative or back up draining system.

Whatever the treatment option, the key to successful reduction of glaucoma is to understand the at risk factors and the process by which the disease progresses. With no cure in place, a treatment plan can be developed with your physician to ensure your health improves and the dieases is not progressing.

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