Diabetes Complications

Glaucoma: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

The eyes are not only often said to be the windows to the soul, but something that we rely on every single day.

Without vision, many functions become nearly, or sometimes even completely, impossible.

Numerous conditions can affect the eyes, including age-related macular degeneration, and, of course, Glaucoma.

In this post, we will consider what Glaucoma is, the potential symptoms and causes, and the available treatment options.

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that tends to worsen gradually, yet many do not know that they have the condition – which is why eye examinations are so important.

When a person develops this disease, the optic nerve of their eye will be damaged over time. Increased pressure tends to occur within the eye when Glaucoma develops as well.

This is often the issue that is linked to the damage that is dealt with the optic nerve that occurs with the condition.

The optic nerve is located at the very back of the eye and carries visual information from the eye to the brain. It is made up of nerve fibers that come from the retina.

The condition has been linked to genetics, but several factors need to be taken into account when looking at Glaucoma.

For many people, symptoms, and complications will only start to develop at an older age – a time when brain health may also begin to decline.

What are the defining characteristics of Glaucoma?

Increased pressure (Ocular hypertension) in the patient’s eyes is the main characteristic that is generally associated with the presence of Glaucoma.

Ocular hypertension means the pressure in your eyes — your intraocular pressure, is higher than usual. One particular characteristic of the condition is that some individuals might be able to feel the increase in pressure that occurs in the eye.

One reason why Glaucoma may be behind so many cases of vision loss is the fact that at least half of those with the condition are unaware that they have it.

More than three million individuals in the United States already have the disease. Without early intervention, the condition leads to permanent damage to the patient’s vision.

Types of Glaucoma

Primary glaucomas

When experts don’t know what causes a type of Glaucoma, that type is called primary Glaucoma.

  • Open-angle Glaucoma – also referred to as ‘wide-angle’ Glaucoma. Essentially, this is where the actual structure of your eye may look healthy, but the fluid itself isn’t flowing normally. Around 90% of all people who have Glaucoma will suffer from open-angle Glaucoma.

  • Closed-angle Glaucoma – a type of Glaucoma that is more associated with Asia compared to the West and is categorized by a small angle between your angle and cornea. With your iris being in the way, the eye cannot drain correctly, which is where the build-up of pressure occurs.

  • Normal-tension glaucoma– Normal-tension Glaucoma is a type of open-angle Glaucoma that happens in people with normal eye pressure.

  • Angle-closure Glaucoma– also called acute Glaucoma, is when you experience intense pain in your eye, blurriness, and nausea. It is classified as a medical emergency so go to the doctor or emergency room immediately.

Secondary Glaucoma

Sometimes Glaucoma is caused by another medical condition

  • Pigmentary Glaucoma– happens when the color from your iris flakes off.

  • Neovascular Glaucoma- happens when the eye makes extra blood vessels that cover the part of your eye where fluid would typically drain. This type of Glaucoma is often associated with Diabetes.

What Causes Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is considered a condition that has no current cure. However, the progression can be slowed, and complications can often be prevented.

That’s why early detection is critical to assure the right steps are taken.

Patients should understand their risks and what causes the disease, as well as know what symptoms to look out for.

In the majority of cases, the development of Glaucoma can be linked to the failure in the maintenance of the balance between intraocular fluid drainage and production.

This occurs as a result of excessive aqueous production. The aqueous drains from the eye through the trabecular meshwork, which is located in the periphery of the anterior chamber.

This is where the cornea and iris meet. However, if the ciliary body produces too much aqueous, this results in increased pressure in the eye, causing ocular hypertension.

There are, however, several underlying factors that can contribute to the development of Glaucoma.

Apart from the fact that Glaucoma may be linked to specific genetic factors, other elements may also contribute to the disease.

One crucial cause behind Glaucoma is a lack of proper blood circulation. In this case, the condition may develop even in some cases where the internal eye pressure of the patient is considered normal.

Optic nerve damage that affects the nerves located in the eyes may also cause complications, such as the development of Glaucoma.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

A significant issue with Glaucoma is the fact that a majority of patients will not experience any significant symptoms in an early stage of the condition.

Therefore, it is vital to be aware of your potential risk for Glaucoma. If left untreated, the person is at risk of complications when the condition is not diagnosed by an optometrist (eye doctor).

A better understanding of the symptoms can help a person realize when it is time to book an appointment for an eye test.

Common symptoms that may develop, especially when the condition starts to progress and cause more damage, may include:

● Tunnel vision (only occurs in the later stages of Glaucoma).


● Peripheral vision loss may gradually occur.


● Eye pain may develop, which can sometimes be severe.


● Vision may become blurry.


● The eye may start to develop a reddish appearance.


● There may be a sudden disturbance in visuals, most often this would occur in a low light area.


● Halos may appear around lights.


Some people may experience eye pain to the level where they also start to become nauseous and might even vomit. So, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, seek treatment.

Is Glaucoma linked with Diabetes?

Some sources state that Diabetes causes Glaucoma, but that’s untrue.

Glaucoma can occur with anyone, but it is heavily linked with Diabetes; especially those with diabetic retinopathy where blood glucose levels affect the blood vessels in the eye.

Through this, the vessels can swell up and cause fluid leaks. Other causes can be where a larger than average amount of blood vessels begin to grow on the surface of the retina.

In both cases, a loss of vision or complete blindness are both very real outcomes.

At the minute, it’s believed that people who have diabetes are twice as likely to develop Glaucoma than their non-diabetic counterparts.

As well as this, a rarer form of Glaucoma called neovascular Glaucoma has always been heavily linked with other health defects with Diabetes being the most common of these.

The topic of whether open-angle Glaucoma and Diabetes are linked is still hotly debated.

Despite early research suggesting that there’s a substantial link, more current researchers now think that this link might be exaggerated.

Modern scientists are now divided on the area, but nearly all agree that neovascular Glaucoma and Diabetes remain in an unhealthy relationship.

Those at high risk of Glaucoma are:

  • Those with Diabetes.

  • Those with a family history of Glaucoma.

  • Aged over 40.

  • Have experienced trauma to their eye.

Diagnosing Glaucoma

Your doctor will review your medical history and conduct an eye exam. They may also perform several tests, including:

  • Measuring intraocular pressure (tonometry).

  • ultrasound eye exam that makes a more detailed image than regular ultrasound (Ultrasound biomicroscopy).

  • Testing for optic nerve damage with a dilated eye exam and imaging tests.

  • Checking for areas of vision loss (visual field test).

  • Measuring corneal thickness (pachymetry).

  • Inspecting the drainage angle (gonioscopy)

Treatments For Glaucoma

Treatments have been developed to help manage Glaucoma. Yet, it is important to note that the condition does not have a cure at the moment.

Preventative measures are preferred, and the early detection of the disease can help to minimize the damage and risks.

Treatment for Glaucoma may include either medication or surgery. In some cases, more than a single treatment option may be included in the Glaucoma management plan of a patient.

The first choice of treatment for Glaucoma is usually eye drops. Eye drops work by reducing the pressure experienced in the patient’s eyes.

There are different types of eye drops that may be provided to the patient.
Alternatively, beta-blockers or alpha agonists may be used to assist in reducing the pressure in the patient’s eyes.

Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors may also be prescribed for patients with elevated intraocular pressure, ocular hypertension, or open-angle Glaucoma.

In some cases, people with Glaucoma may be advised to undergo laser surgery.

This involves your doctor uses a small laser beam to open clogged channels in the trabecular meshwork. It may take a few weeks before you notice the effects of the surgery.

If medicines and laser treatment don’t work, your doctor might suggest glaucoma surgery. Different forms of Glaucoma may require specific treatment methods.

How Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?

The good thing about Glaucoma is the fact that there are ways to lower a person’s risk of developing this eye disease.

The maintenance of a healthy weight is one particularly critical method to help reduce the risk of the illness.

Individuals should also try to avoid smoking and maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

Unfortunately, no cure had been developed for the condition yet. Current treatments focus on helping to reduce the pressure within the patient’s eye, to prevent further optic nerve damage. For if left untreated, Glaucoma can result in blindness.

Best Supplements For Treating Glaucoma

While there are pharmaceutical and conventional treatments for Glaucoma, many people are opting for alternative remedies, often in the form of supplements, to assist with the management of the disease.

Several types of supplements have been suggested to possibly provide a reduction in the risk of developing Glaucoma and the particular factors that are behind this eye disease.

One specific publication explains that increasing the intake of vitamin Bs through foods may be helpful.

The same publication, however, suggests that obtaining these vitamins from a daily supplement might not be as effective compared to the consumption of whole foods that are rich in B vitamins.

A publication in the Review of Ophthalmology explains that the following supplement might be useful:


● Vitamin C


● Vitamin E


Vitamin B12 


There are also some natural products and botanical extracts that could be useful as well. These might include:


Ginkgo Biloba Extract

● Billberry Extract


● Forskolin Extract

How Can You Determine Which Glaucoma Supplements Are Best For You?

Since each person is different, it is important to note that what works in reducing the effects and possibly the risk of Glaucoma in one person may not be as effective in the next.

This is as certain vitamins have been found to reduce the likeliness in cases where a person has a nutrient deficiency.

When turning to botanical extracts like Ginkgo Biloba supplements, it is essential to note that these supplements may sometimes interfere with existing pharmaceutical drugs.

The pills may also have interactions with certain current health conditions. Thus, all of this need to be taken into account when considering which supplement may be the ideal option for a specific individual.

Some people are turning toward natural supplements instead of conventional medicine.

One of the most important reasons why people are turning toward a more natural approach is due to the lower risk of side-effects associated with these products.

Conclusion

Because Glaucoma tends to begin without any symptoms, it’s imperative to get regularly checked by a registered eye doctor who can check for any early signs.

This is especially true for those who have risk factors associated with the disease.

If you’re not getting your eyes regularly checked out, then you run the risk of missing several other conditions beyond just Glaucoma, too.

If you suffer from neovascular Glaucoma, then you can use laser treatment to reduce the blood vessels on the surface of the retina and the iris.

As well as this, doctors can prescribe eye drops, medications, or other types of glaucoma surgery to treat the eye. The best course of action is to act as soon as possible to prevent lasting damage.

Sources

  1. https://www.rnib.org.uk/professionals/knowledge-and-research-hub/key-information-and-statistics
  2. https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/glaucoma-and-diabetes-can-diabetes-affect-your-eyes/
  3. Zhao YX, Chen XW. Diabetes and risk of glaucoma: systematic review and a Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Int J Ophthalmol. 2017;10(9):1430–1435. Published 2017 Sep 18. doi:10.18240/ijo.2017.09.16
  4. Young, J, Caprioli, J. (2019). Laser trabeculoplasty as first-line glaucoma treatment. The Lancet. 393 (10), p1479-1480.
  5. McMonnies CW. Glaucoma history and risk factors. J Optom. 2017;10(2):71–78. doi:10.1016/j.optom.2016.02.003

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