Glaucoma: The Essentials
by Optoplus / January 2019
Few people know that diabetes can affect eye health. A person’s glucose level, cholesterol level and blood pressure can seriously impact their risk of developing diseases like glaucoma. Fortunately, we can focus on prevention by informing citizens of the associations between diabetes and glaucoma.
What is glaucoma?
The optic nerve, composed of nerve fibres, transmits images from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is a disease that causes damage to these fibres. When a person develops glaucoma, their vision gradually becomes murkier, it first affects their peripheral visual field, and later, their central vision is affected. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blind spots or even complete loss of vision. Initial symptoms are often invisible to the naked eye, which is why regular eye exams are so important. Smoking, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and pregnancy can trigger or aggravate glaucoma’s symptoms.
Types of glaucoma
Two common types of glaucoma are open-angle and narrow-angle glaucoma.
Open-angle glaucoma, also called chronic glaucoma, is initially asymptomatic. It gradually increasing pressure on the optic nerve causing possible long-term damage. About 90% of glaucoma cases are open-angle.
The onset of closed-angle or acute glaucoma is both sudden and painful and requires immediate treatment by an optometrist. Eye injuries, health problems like diabetes and prolonged use of certain medications can trigger this disease.
Glaucoma and diabetes
While diabetes is not the leading cause of glaucoma, the disease is more likely to appear prematurely in diabetics. High blood sugar causes the blood vessels in the eyes to constrict, and the eye’s fluids to thicken and harden. One of the best ways to combat eye disease is to control your blood sugar. Many people are unaware that they live with diabetes. Thankfully, it is possible to be diagnosed by an optometrist. Optometrists can detect the condition during an eye examination and can help patients minimize the risk of visual loss.
Preventing and treating glaucoma
Prevention is more effective than treatment. People tend to adapt to worsening vision, making it difficult to notice diabetes’ effects. Since few symptoms are initially present, it is important to get regular eye exams. In order to detect glaucoma, an optometrist can perform a simple procedure called tonometry, which measures the pressure inside the eye. It will also assess the condition of the optic nerve and the extent of a patient’s field of vision.
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