Glaucoma: the leading cause of irreversible blindness

What is glaucoma and how does it occur?

Glaucoma is an eye disease characterized by a pathological increase in intraocular pressure due to lack of drainage of the aqueous humor and has as a common final condition an optic neuropathy characterized by progressive loss of nerve fibers of the optic nerve and changes in its appearance. There are several types of glaucoma, in most of them the drainage system of the eye is clogged and the intraocular fluid cannot drain normally. As this fluid accumulates, the eye pressure increases and damages the optic nerve, leading to irreversible vision loss.

Each type of glaucoma has a different origin and evolution, but most cases correspond to the so-called simple chronic glaucoma. Most of those affected have no symptoms in the early stages of the disease; the most obvious signs appear when defects in the visual field, blurred vision, eye pain, headache, perception of halos around the eyes and progressive loss of vision appear.

Prevention is the best solution for dealing with glaucoma, which is why Dr. Lillo Sopena recommends check-ups especially for those people most prone to develop glaucoma, who are people with high eye pressure, over 40 years of age, relatives of people who have suffered from glaucoma or people of African descent.

According to Dr. Lillo Sopena, “the big problem with glaucoma is that in most cases, the patient does not perceive any change in his vision until very advanced stages of the disease. It usually starts with a loss of field of vision, a circumstance that is very difficult for the patient to perceive, and finally affects central vision”. In addition, the glaucoma specialist warns us that “if the disease is not properly treated, a loss of visual field will occur, which can be disabling and will eventually result in a loss of total vision”.

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Without proper treatment, glaucoma can cause blindness, but with early detection and proper treatment, vision can be preserved. It is a disease that is affecting more and more people every day and is becoming more common with increasing age. Currently, more than 70 million people worldwide suffer from glaucoma, 10% of whom are blind. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness in the world.

Glaucoma prevention

“The key to avoid the most advanced and irreversible stages of glaucoma is early detection”, explains the ophthalmologist of Dr. Lillo Sopena explains what we can do for early detection:

  • Perform an annual ophthalmologic checkup, starting at age 40, and earlier if there is a family history of glaucoma.
  • Routine examinations in children and adolescents.
  • Genetic test for early detection

Glaucoma treatment

Currently, there are different therapies to treat glaucoma that help alleviate its progression. “We must bear in mind that glaucoma treatment only manages to stop the symptoms of the disease, but we will never achieve a total improvement of the disease,” Dr. Lillo Sopena explains.

Depending on the stage of the disease in which we find ourselves, the recommended treatment will vary. Although eye pressure is only one of the causes of glaucoma, reducing this pressure is the most commonly used treatment based on eye drops. For more acute cases, laser treatment may also be useful. If, despite all this, glaucoma continues to progress, Dr. Juan Lillo Sopena of® advises “surgical treatment. In recent years, new surgical techniques have appeared that have helped to control this disease more safely and effectively. Most of them aim to create new pathways to drain the aqueous humor”.