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This blog is another opportunity to feel grateful. Thank you, dear Universe, you continue to bless me with recovery and health.
One evening in 2016, I went out for a walk and my life changed irrevocably. I was diagnosed with a rare disease called Isaacs’ Syndrome. Isaacs’ is a neuromuscular health condition that stems from muscle hyperactivity. My lift post-diagnosis underwent a drastic change. In the process, I also discovered that I had Lyme disease. Lyme is a bacterial illness that gets transmitted through ticks. I was also accompanied by Glaucoma. Glaucoma is an eye-related disease that damages the optic nerves. And Membranous Glomerulonephritis is a progressive kidney disease.
Ordinarilyrare.com began as an effort to document my experience of recovering from these conditions. In this article, I talk about Glaucoma.
Most people might immediately understand cataracts as a cause of blindness, but only a few might know that Glaucoma is the next most common reason people go blind.
Glaucoma is a broad term describing a variety of diseases that damage the optic nerve. It enables the communication between the eye and the brain. The National Eye Institute, the vision research arm of the United States National Institutes of Health, described Glaucoma as a “silent thief of sight”. It can seemingly cause a sudden loss of vision preceded by nearly no symptoms whatsoever. Further, Glaucoma is incurable. Patients invariably suffer some, if not total, vision loss.
How does Glaucoma affect a person’s vision?
To understand how Glaucoma impacts vision, we need to look at how the human eye functions.
Going from front to back, the eye comprises several parts, chiefly the cornea, the iris, the pupil, the lens, the retina, and the optic nerve. But a large volume of the eye is made up of two kinds of fluids, called aqueous and vitreous humour in scientific parlance. The first of these, the aqueous humour, separates the cornea and the iris, which converge in a gap covered by the trabecular meshwork tissue.
In a healthy eye, the fluid flows into the bloodstream through this gap, keeping the pressure exerted on the eye balanced.
If there is any damage to the tissue, the gap between the cornea and the iris (also called the drainage angle) contracts. The fluid cannot leave the eye and starts to pressurize the entire eye. This increase in pressure. It can damage the optic nerve, which can be compared to a bundle of wires. It results in some of these wires malfunctioning. As each wire ceases functioning, the “feed” from the eye to the brain is affected. It leads to an increase in the number of blind spots. While a few blind spots may not impair vision, a large number can lead to significant loss of vision and, ultimately, blindness. Called open-angle Glaucoma, this is the more common type. It does not at first cause any pain to the person suffering it.
In some cases, the person’s iris may block the drainage angle causing a sudden rise in fluid pressure in the eye. Anyone suffering such an “acute attack” of Glaucoma – also called closed-angle Glaucoma. The patient may experience a range of symptoms including blurred vision and nausea. It can be accompanied by seeing halos or rainbows around lights, sharp pain in the eye, and headaches. Again, the person may get no forewarning or advanced symptoms. It is advised to consult an eye doctor immediately after the attack to prevent the risk of blindness.
How can someone find out if they have Glaucoma?
The lack of warning in Glaucoma cases means that people susceptible to it need regular eye check-ups to prevent an attack.
In the typical eye exam, the ophthalmologist administers eye drops that dilate the pupils of the eyes. They then check the dilated eyes for any indications of glaucoma. It includes the fluid pressure in both eyes, as well as the size of the corneas and the person’s side vision. An eye exam can also reveal if the person’s optic nerve is sensitive. It means even normal pressure levels in the eyes may cause damage to it.
People with more sensitive optic nerves may need to get tested more often. It includes people with a family history of glaucoma or diseases like diabetes or high BP.
Since Glaucoma is also an age-related condition, people over 40 should also get tested for it. It becomes important especially if they already have sight issues. It includes people who suffered eye injuries or take steroids to treat other illnesses. Also, Indians, along with other Asians, Africans, and Latin American people are genetically more prone to Glaucoma, making proper eye care a necessity.
I discovered I had Glaucoma during a routine eye test. My vision was getting blurred with instances of dizziness.
Initially, I thought it was due to the heavy doses of medicines and my core condition of Isaac’s Syndrome. I considered it to be a side effect.
’You have an early stage of Glaucoma, and you are too young to have it’’ my ophthalmologist said with a drooping face. Things since then have not been normal.
It was in a series that I was informed about Isaacs’ Syndrome, Membranous Glomerulonephritis, Lymes and now Glaucoma. The news was enough to break me down and get me in tears.
Other assessments immediately followed the Eye Pressure test, Visual field test, and Optic nerve test. They helped the doctor reach the intensity of the situation. I was fortunate that the results were not severe and was informed that the damage done was irreversible however functional abnormalities could be managed. I breathe a sigh of relief after discovering that there are enough medicines to treat it. Today, I am on a set of medications with regular check-ups to cope with the condition.
Can someone recover from Glaucoma?
Treating a person suffering from Glaucoma usually involves lowering the fluid pressure in one or both eyes. It is a way of preventing optic nerve damage.
Depending on the severity of the condition, the eye doctor may prescribe eye drops and other medication or suggest laser treatment to ease the fluid build-up. In case these measures are not helpful, the ophthalmologist may perform a surgical procedure. It ensures the aqueous humour flow out of the eyes without any clogging. They may suggest further eye exams in case one is still susceptible to Glaucoma attacks.
As with any disease, prevention is always better than cure. People whose family members have Glaucoma should certainly consider periodic eye exams. It is recommended to follow their eye doctor’s advice on precautionary measures.
The views expressed above in this article are the author’s own and do not represent any kind of medical advice.