Living with Glaucoma

By Dr. Imalka Fonseka

A diagnosis of glaucoma shouldn't prevent you from enjoying your life or living life to the fullest. When you have the facts, you can take charge of your health with just a few adjustments to your routine.

Remember, most cases of glaucoma can be managed with medication alone, and surgery becomes essential only when medication fails to control the disease. With early diagnosis the risk of going blind from glaucoma is minimal.

Glaucoma comprises a group of ocular disorders of the eye characterized by pressure related damage to the optic nerve.

Although glaucoma damage is associated with multiple risk factors, its major determinant is an intra ocular pressure that is too high for the normal functioning of the optic nerve.

Uncontrolled glaucoma results in a progressive and irreversible contraction of the visual field that may ultimately lead to blindness. Although several theories exist for the mechanism of optic nerve damage, lowering the intra ocular pressure is currently the only proven treatment available to halt the progression of the disease.

Risk factors

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in both the developing and the developed world. It can occur at any age. However it is more prevalent in older adults affecting approximately 2 - 3 % of the population over the age of 40 years.

Although intra ocular pressure is the major risk factor as well as the treatment focus for glaucoma, other risk factors include genetic predisposition, increasing age, diabetic mellitus, hypertension, myopia, migraine and other vasospastic disorders.

Some people are predisposed to optic nerve damage even if the intra ocular pressure is "normal" (ie; Normal Tension Glaucoma) especially in the presence of other risk factors. In others, glaucoma damage may also progress despite the elevated intra ocular pressure being normalized.

However in the vast majority glaucoma can be controlled with effective treatment.

Daily life with glaucoma

Your medication schedule will probably be the biggest change to your daily life. Schedule instilling drops to your eyes and visits to your doctor around your other daily activities. Soon they will become a normal part of your daily life.

(The writer is Consultant Ophthalmologist, Eye Hospital)

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