What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition which damages the optic nerve and cause blindness. Optic nerve sends visual signals from eye to the brain. This is caused by increase in the pressure in the eyes (intra ocular pressure). Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness across the world.
As Glaucoma doesn’t show any warning signs till the disease has progressed, it is extremely important to have regular eye tests. This is a non-reversible condition and can deteriorate if not treated in time. Treatments cannot completely cure the condition and are aimed to arresting further damage.
Glaucoma Causes and Risk factors
The anterior and posterior chambers of the eye (part surrounding the lens) produce a clear liquid called Aqueous humor. This provides nutrients to the eye parts and is also instrumental in maintaining pressure within the eyes which keeps the eyeball properly formed. This liquid flow out through a mesh like channel in the iris and cornea. When this channel gets blocked for some reason, the liquid cannot go out thus increasing the pressure within the eyes. The increased pressure then damages the optic nerve which affects the visual signals being transmitted to the brain causing vision loss. This is the root cause of Glaucoma.
The list below shows some of the main risk factors for developing Glaucoma
1. Hereditary: Family history of Glaucoma increases the risk
2. Age: This condition normally develops after the age of 40
3. Eye problems: Chronic eye inflammations and continuous usage of medications like eyedrops
4. Other medical complications like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart diseases
Types of Glaucoma:
The two main types of Glaucoma are
Open-angle Glaucoma: This is the most common type where the liquid doesn’t flow out because the channel gets blocked.
Angle-closure Glaucoma: Here, the drain doesn’t happen because the angle between the iris and cornea is too narrow. This causes sudden buildup in the pressure and is characterized by severe eye pain, headache and nausea. This is a medical emergency needing immediate doctor attention.
Symptoms vary based on the type of Glaucoma. The main symptoms are
• Severe Eye pain
• Redness in the eyes
• Blurred vision
• Seeing halos around light
• Nausea and vomiting
Doctor would go through the symptoms and medical history before prescribing some of these tests
• Tonometry test to check the intraocular pressure in the eye
• Pachymetry test to check the thickness of the cornea
• Visual field test also known as Perimetry test to measure central, side and peripheral vision
The main objective is to reduce the pressure within the eyes and stop the condition from deteriorating further. Eyedrops are the first line of treatment for Glaucoma. This includes medicines like
• Latanoprost and bimatoprost which reduces the eye pressure
• Betablockers like timolol and betaxolol which reduces the production of the fluid
• Miotic agents like pilocarpine which increases the outflow of the fluid
All of these medications are known to have side effects like blurred or dim vision, redness in the eyes, smaller pupils, irregular heart rate and blood pressure variations.
Surgical procedures are advised in some cases. These include
• Laser trabeculoplasty procedure which opens the blocked mesh channels
• Trabeculectomy which opens the sclera and removes a part of the channel creating a clearer path for the fluid to drain out
• Electrocautery procedure to remove the tissues causing blockage within the channel
Angle closure glaucoma needs immediate attention where typically a procedure named laser peripheral iridotomy is performed. This creates a hole in the iris for the fluid to drain out.
Glaucoma Treatment in Ayurveda
Ayurveda associates Glaucoma with a disease named Adhimantha. This happens due to overexposure to bright light, over usage of eyes causing strain and regular consumption of hot, spicy foods. This causes vata and pitta doshas to vitiate and block the channels and also affects kapha dosha thus impacting nutrition.
Ayurveda treatments for Glaucoma are highly effective if the treatment is in the early stages. Vision can be improved, and further issues can definitely be stopped if treated in time. First treatment objective is to clear the blocks in the channel and parallelly treatment would start for nourishment of eyes which strengthens the optic nerves and prevents further damage. Ayurvedic treatment for Glaucoma include procedures include Nasya, nethradhara, Thakradhara, Anjana and Virechana. Treatment duration is typically 18-21 days of in-patient treatment in the hospital. A bystander is highly recommended during the treatment period even though it is not mandatory. Ayurvedic treatment cost for Glaucoma would be around 800 to 1,000 USD.
Dos and Donts for preventing and treating Glaucoma
• Eat a healthy diet with lot of green leaves, fish which are high in omega 3
• Reduce caffeine intake
• Sip liquids frequently rather than gulping large quantities in a short time
• Sleep with head in an elevated position
• Do regular eye checks after 40 years of age