Explore the potential link between glaucoma and blindness. Uncover 8 essential facts that provide insights into the connection and implications of glaucoma on vision loss.

Can Glaucoma Lead To Blindness? 8 Things You Need To Know

  • Dr Sraavya A
Did you know this? The WHO estimates glaucoma is India's leading cause of irreversible blindness, affecting more than 12 million people and leaving nearly 1.2 million blind!
And this number is estimated to increase even further. In India, undiagnosed cases of Glaucoma account for around 90% of the cases as opposed to other countries where it is about 40-60%. If left undiagnosed and untreated, Glaucoma may lead to blindness in affected individuals. In this article, we discuss 8 things you need to know to effectively treat and prevent cases of Glaucoma. Read on to know more.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that primarily affects the optic nerve leading to progressive vision loss. The primary pathogenesis of glaucoma is increased intraocular pressure as the aqueous humor in the eye fails to drain through the trabecular meshwork. This increase in the pressure levels causes damage to the optic nerve leading to blindness. Although there are certain Glaucoma cases where the pressure in the eyeball is normal, it still leads to similar damage to the optic nerve. The pathology behind Normal tension glaucoma is not clear yet.
You can check out this video to know the pathophysiology of Glaucoma.

8 Things You Need To Know To Effectively Treat & Prevent Glaucoma


Types of Glaucoma

Although there is no major difference in the symptomatology of the disease condition, Glaucoma is classified broadly into 2 types and then further sub-classified.
The classification of glaucoma is based on the underlying mechanisms that cause optic nerve damage. There are two main categories of glaucoma: primary and secondary glaucoma. Here, we will discuss the differences between the two categories and their subtypes.

1) Primary Glaucoma

Primary glaucoma occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve without any known underlying cause. There are two main subtypes of primary glaucoma: open-angle and angle-closure.
  • Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma and occurs when the trabecular meshwork (which helps drain fluid from the eye) becomes clogged, leading to increased eye pressure and damage to the optic nerve. It often has no symptoms in the early stages, and if left untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma, on the other hand, occurs when the iris is positioned too close to the drainage angle, which can cause a sudden increase in eye pressure. Symptoms include severe eye pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and halos around lights.

2) Secondary Glaucoma

Secondary glaucoma is caused by an underlying condition or factor that affects the eye's drainage system, leading to increased eye pressure and optic nerve damage. There are several subtypes of secondary glaucoma, including:
  1. Neovascular glaucoma occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow in the iris, leading to blockage of the drainage system.
  2. Pigmentary glaucoma occurs when pigment granules from the iris clog the drainage system.
  3. Traumatic glaucoma occurs as a result of an injury to the eye.
  4. Uveitic glaucoma occurs when there is inflammation in the eye that damages the drainage system.
  5. Pseudoexfoliative glaucoma occurs when a flaky material builds up in the drainage system.
  6. Iatrogenic glaucoma occurs as a result of certain medical treatments or surgeries.

Causes of Glaucoma

The leading cause of glaucoma is increased eye pressure, which is caused by a buildup of fluid in the eye. However, other factors can also contribute to the development of glaucoma.
  1. Age: As people get older, the risk of developing glaucoma increases. It is more common in people above the age of 40.
  2. Family history: Genetics can also play a role in the development of glaucoma. People with a family history of glaucoma are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
  3. Other medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma due to the vascular changes in these conditions.
The increased pressure and damage to blood vessels in these conditions can affect the eye's blood flow and drainage system, leading to increased eye pressure and optic nerve damage.
  1. Certain medications such as corticosteroids, antidepressants, antihistamines, and medications used to treat Parkinson's disease, may also increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
  2. Lifestyle factors can also play a role in the development of glaucoma. Smoking, for example, has been linked to an increased risk.
  3. Eye injuries: Blunt trauma and penetration injuries can damage the eye's drainage system, increasing eye pressure and damaging the optic nerve.
  4. High myopia: The structural changes in the eye caused by high myopia increase the risk of developing glaucoma. Elongated eyes can narrow the angle between the iris and cornea, increasing the risk of angle-closure glaucoma.
A regular eye exam will help detect and manage early signs of glaucoma, which is due to a variety of risk factors for the disease. The progression of glaucoma can be slowed or stopped if detected early and treated properly.

What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is often considered the "silent thief of sight" since it can lead to permanent vision loss without any visible symptoms until the disease has advanced. 
During the early stages, there are no noticeable symptoms, which is why regular eye exams are so important. 
Measurement of eye pressure, an inspection of the optic nerve, and a peripheral vision test can be used to detect the disease by an ophthalmologist.

Symptoms of Glaucoma include:

  • Gradual loss of peripheral vision, starting with the outer edges, may be a sign of open-angle glaucoma
  • Narrowing of the field of vision and tunnel vision may be present in advanced stages of the disease
  • Blurred vision, eye pain, headaches, and halos around lights may be present in acute angle-closure glaucoma

Treatment and Management of Glaucoma

The treatment and management of glaucoma aim to prevent or slow down the progression of the disease and preserve vision. 
  • The primary approach involves lowering intraocular pressure, the main risk factor. This can be achieved through medications, laser treatments, or surgery.
  • Regular eye exams are crucial for monitoring the effectiveness of treatment and detecting any vision changes.
  •  Healthy lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise.
  •  Effective management of other medical conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, can further reduce the risks amd complications.
Overall, early diagnosis and proper treatment can help individuals with glaucoma maintain good vision and quality of life.

How can Diabetes Cause Glaucoma?

Diabetes is a medical disease that raises the likelihood of acquiring glaucoma. High blood sugar levels can harm blood vessels throughout the body, including the tiny blood capillaries in the eyes that nourish the optic nerve. This injury can limit blood supply to the optic nerve, increasing the risk.
Also, diabetics are more prone to excessive ocular pressure, which is a key risk factor. As a result, diabetics should have frequent eye exams to check for signs and other eye disorders.
Aside from Diabetes is involved in vision loss in multiple ways. To learn more about the effect of diabetes on eyesight, check this Case Discussion on Diabetic Retinopathy

Can diabetes management help reduce the risk of Glaucoma?

While there are numerous risk factors, diabetes is one of the leading causes. Diabetes can harm blood vessels all over the body, including the small veins in the eyes that supply nutrition to the optic nerve. This injury may decrease blood supply to the optic nerve, increasing the risk.
Diabetes can be managed effectively with lifestyle modifications and medication, lowering the risk. 

Role of a physician in reducing the incidence of Glaucoma

Diabetes can be controlled carefully by physicians to help reduce the occurrence of glaucoma. Here are some measures you, as a physician, can take to help your patients:
  • Close monitoring and treating blood sugar levels in a patient.
  • Carrying out frequent eye exams to diagnose glaucoma early, allowing you to treat and avoid catastrophic problems.
  • To help control diabetes and lower the risk, you can also provide instructions on good lifestyle choices such as frequent exercise, a nutritious diet, and adequate medication.
By accurately managing diabetes, you can help reduce the occurrence of glaucoma and improve your patient's overall well-being.

How can a physician upskill for enhanced  Diabetes management?

  • Upskilling offers you the most up-to-date knowledge and practices for properly managing diabetes, thanks to advances in research and technology. This can involve instruction on how to use new medications, gadgets, and therapies.
  • Upskilling helps you acquire new communication and counseling skills to increase patient participation and adherence to treatment regimens.
  • Upskilling allows you to stay current on the newest discoveries in diabetes management and deliver the best possible care to your patients.
  • Ultimately, this can lead to better patient outcomes, lower healthcare expenditures, and a higher quality of life for diabetics.

Why should you enroll in a Medvarsity diabetology course?

Medvarsity is Asia`s largest healthcare ed-tech company offering online and blended learning programs (Fellowship, Post-Graduate Programs, and Certificate courses) for healthcare professionals.

5 Reasons Why You Should Enroll In A Diabetology Course By Medvarsity:

1. Comprehensive curriculum:

Medvarsity offers a comprehensive curriculum that covers various aspects of Diabetology, including diagnosis, management, and treatment of diabetes and its complications. The courses are designed by experts in the field and offer up-to-date information on the latest developments in Diabetology.

2. Flexible learning:

The courses are offered online, allowing physicians to learn at their own pace and convenience. The flexible learning environment enables physicians to balance their studies with their professional and personal commitments.

3. Accredited courses:

Medvarsity's Diabetology courses are accredited by reputed organizations, such as NHS, BAC, and CPD standards office UK and AHERF; ensuring that physicians receive a high-quality education that meets industry standards.

4. Practical learning:

The courses include practical sessions that enable physicians to apply their knowledge in real-life scenarios. This practical learning approach enhances the physician's diagnostic and management skills, enabling them to provide better care to their patients.

5. Career advancement:

Completion of Diabetology courses by Medvarsity can enhance a physician's professional credibility and career opportunities. The courses enable physicians to develop specialized knowledge and skills that can help them advance in their careers and improve patient outcomes.
At Medvarsity there are 8 different courses to understand and gain expertise about various aspects of Diabetes Mellitus. The courses are as follows:
  1. Management of Diabetes - Practice essentials
  2. Diabetes care: Care of people with Metabolic Problems
  3. Fellowship in Diabetes Mellitus
  4. Certificate course in Pediatric Diabetes
  5. Certificate in Diabetes Mellitus
  6. The advanced certificate in Diabetes Mellitus Essentials
  7. The advanced certificate in Diabetes Mellitus
  8. Fellowship in Hospital-Based Diabetes Management
Upskilling has become essential for physicians to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of the healthcare industry. By acquiring new skills and knowledge, physicians can improve patient care, enhance their career opportunities, and stay up-to-date with the latest medical advancements. By investing time and resources in upskilling, you can not only stay relevant but also make significant contributions to the healthcare system and positively impact the lives of your patients.

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