Glaucoma, also known as the silent killer of the eyes, is one of the top diseases concerning one of the most vital organs of the body. Glaucoma is a type of eye disease that damages your optic nerve. This usually happens when there are fluid builds up in the front part of your eye. That extra fluid increases the pressure in your eye, damaging the optic nerve, thus leading to a severe eye condition — Glaucoma. Discussing the dangers of this disease is important as it is one of those silent killers that come with zero to negligible symptoms. Why are we calling it a silent killer? Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old. But blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment. But today, we will talk about whether there is a way to know when a patient has Glaucoma.
Glaucoma And Eye Pressure: Understanding The Basics
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that has the ability to cause permanent vision loss and blindness. It damages the nerve present in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. Although experts have stated that they aren’t sure of the possible causes of the most common types of glaucoma, studies have shown that people who have high eye pressure are at higher risk for glaucoma. How can one get to know about their eye pressure? Your eye doctor can check for glaucoma during a comprehensive dilated eye exam. What does eye pressure have to do with glaucoma? We spoke to Dr Digvijay Singh, MBBS (AIIMS), MD (AIIMS), Consultant Ophthalmologist, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s Hospital, Malviya Nagar to understand the relation between the two and how one should get to know if their eyes are at risk of Glaucoma.
Speaking to TheHealthSite.com, Dr Singh said, “Our eyes are filled with a certain fluid called the aqueous and vitreous humid which maintains the pressure and shape of the eye. The pressure within the eye is called Intraocular pressure. It can be measured using special instruments called tonometers. Normally this pressure is less than 21 mm Hg in adults and even lesser in children (less than 16mm Hg). If this pressure in the eye increases it causes a mechanical compression of the optic nerve which leads to optic nerve damage and glaucoma. In glaucoma, a person loses their peripheral vision first and hence does not realise that some vision loss is happening. It is only when central vision gets affected later in the advanced stages of glaucoma that we realise that something is wrong with the eyes but unfortunately by then it is too late as vision loss in glaucoma is irreversible.”
What Happens When You Have High Eye Pressure?
Dr Singh says that eye pressure is not a common or constant measurement for everyone. It differs from person to person. “Eye pressure may be different for every person (normally ranging between 12-16 mm Hg) and fluctuates through the day. It depends on certain factors such as the amount of fluid being produced in the eye or how quickly it is being drained through sieve-like drainage called the trabecular meshwork of the eye or a few factors such as blood pressure and certain medications like steroids being taken for allergies or asthma,” said Dr Singh.
How Much Eye Pressure Is Too Much?
Right now we have a clear picture of the connection between eye pressure and Glaucoma. Now an important question that arises is how high is too high for eye pressure. According to Dr Singh, anything more than 21 mm Hg can be considered high but does not mean treatment is needed. For any eye pressure more than 30mm Hg it is considered too high and has to be treated else there is a risk of vision loss. The higher and longer the eye pressure remains the more likelihood of vision loss. An eye pressure of 40 mm Hg could cause vision loss in a few days while that of 24 mm Hg could take many years before any vision loss happens. An important factor other than just the single value of eye pressure is the fluctuation of eye pressure. Just as fluctuation of blood pressure is dangerous, too much change in eye pressure is more damaging than just high pressure alone. Hence eye doctors check eye pressure at different times of the day to determine fluctuation when the eye pressure is borderline and a decision on whether to treat or not to treat is needed.
“It is imperative to get your eye pressure checked if you are above 40 and more so if you have a family history of glaucoma,” Dr Singh told THS.