For the eye to function normally, it must have a certain pressure. This eye pressure is regulated by the aqueous humor, a fluid that is produced and evacuated in equal amounts. If, for any reason, the eye produces more fluid than normal or less is evacuated, the eye pressure may rise and consequently affect the optic nerve. If this happens we speak of glaucoma.
Thus, glaucoma is a pathology that affects the nerve fibers of the retina, causing damage to the optic nerve (optic neuropathy), which results in an alteration of the visual field. The most important risk factor for glaucoma is an increase in intraocular pressure. However, it should be noted that having high eye pressure does not always mean having glaucoma; not all eyes will react in the same way to an increase in eye pressure. Likewise, if the patient has high blood pressure, it does not necessarily mean that he or she must suffer an increase in eye pressure.
How to diagnose glaucoma?
Measuring eye pressure by tonometry is mandatory in patients over 40 years of age, especially if the patient has a family history of glaucoma, since it is a hereditary disease in a large percentage of cases.
If glaucoma is suspected, an examination of the tension of the eye (tonometry) will be necessary, to see the appearance of the optic nerve in the back of the eye and to carry out a campimetry and/or an OCT, to see if there has been a loss of the visual field.
Can glaucoma be treated?
There are currently several treatments available to prevent glaucoma from progressing. However, it should be noted that if the patient has lost nerve cells, they will not be able to regenerate. Therefore, glaucoma treatment will not improve the patient’s visual field, but will only try to maintain it, preventing further loss.
The Ophthalmology specialist will use different therapies for glaucoma depending on how high the patient’s pressure is, how much the visual field has been altered and the capacity of the disease to progress. Once these parameters have been assessed, the treatments available will be:
- Topical medication in the form of eye drops.
- Laser trabeculoplasty
- Filtering surgery with trabeculectomy or deep non-perforating sclerotomy
- Drainage devices (valved or not)