Shining A Light on Glaucoma: Understanding The Silent Thief Of Sight

Once upon a time in a bustling city, there lived a young boy named Nathan. Nathan was full of curiosity and had always been fascinated by the world around him and loved exploring nature.

One sunny day, Nathan noticed something peculiar, his grandmother, Grandma Mary, seemed to be struggling with her vision. Colors appeared blurry and she often squinted to read her favorite Bible.

Concerned for his beloved Grandma, Nathan decided to take matters into his own hands. Nathan embarked on a quest to learn more about what could be causing his grandmother’s vision problems. He visited his uncle, an Optometrist, who told him about a condition called Glaucoma that affects the eyes.

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve. It usually happens when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. That extra fluid increases the pressure in your eye, damaging the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible to send signals from the eye to the brain which gives us vision to see clearly.

What is the main Cause of Glaucoma?

Our eye constantly makes a fluid called the aqueous humor. As new aqueous flows into your eye, the same amount should drain out. The fluid drains out through an area called the drainage angle. This process keeps the pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure) stable. However, if the drainage angle is not working properly, fluid builds up. Pressure inside the eye rises, damaging the optic nerve. The optic nerve is made up of more than a million tiny nerve fibers. It is like an electric cable made up of many small wires. As these nerve fibers die, you will develop blind spots in your vision. You may not notice these blind spots until most of your optic nerve fibers have died. If all of the fibers die, you will become blind.

How do you get Glaucoma?

Unfortunately, most of the time, you do not know if you have glaucoma without seeing an eye doctor. The most common type of glaucoma is the open angle glaucoma. However, there are no warning signs and no obvious symptoms during the early stages of glaucoma. As the disease progresses, blind spots and visual field defects slowly develops at the peripheral (side) vision. Most people with open angle glaucoma do not notice any change in their vision until it is too late and the damage is quite severe.

Do “glaucoma suspects” have symptoms?

Some people are considered glaucoma suspects even if their eye pressure is normal. In cases like this, your eye doctor may notice something different about your optic nerve. Some other people have no signs of damage but have higher than normal eye pressure (called ocular hypertension). These group of people are also considered as glaucoma suspects and have a higher risk of eventually developing glaucoma. Most glaucoma suspects have no symptoms, that is why you need to be carefully monitored by your eye doctor if you are a glaucoma suspect. An eye care specialist can check for any changes over time and begin treatment if needed.

How Can Glaucoma be treated?

Glaucoma damage is permanent and cannot be reversed. Although we cannot cure glaucoma completely, your eye doctor can halt the disease and slow disease progression with eye drops, laser glaucoma therapy and glaucoma eye surgeries. The importance of these treatments is to lower the eye pressure by suppressing fluid production in the eye or increasing drainage of fluid out of the eye.

What then should we do?

Early eye screening is very important. Everyone should have a baseline eye examination with an eye doctor to screen for glaucoma. The only sure way to diagnose glaucoma is with a complete eye exam. A glaucoma screening that only checks eye pressure is not enough to detect glaucoma. During a glaucoma exam, your eye doctor will measure your eye pressure, inspect your eye’s drainage angle, examine your optic nerve for damage, test your peripheral (side) vision, measure the thickness of your cornea. Very often people do annual medical checks and dental checks but often overlook the importance of eye check up. In fact, those who have family history of glaucoma eye disease, have high eye pressure, are farsighted or nearsighted, have had an eye injury, use long-term steroid medications, have corneas that are thin in the center, have thinning of the optic nerve etc. are of higher risk and should see their eye care specialist for annual eye check at least once per year. With regular check up, we can catch the disease at its early stage and prevent visual loss.

Remember, by taking care of our eyes and staying informed about glaucoma, we can protect our vision and continue to see the world in all its beauty. So let’s keep our eyes open and stay proactive when it comes to our eye health.

Dr. Victor Amoako, OD, MGOA


Medifem Multi-Specialist Hospital and Fertility Center.