FAQs about Glaucoma

It’s World Glaucoma Week!  This is established to mainly raise awareness of this disease.

Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that is largely mysterious to the general population, even if it is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.

FAQs about glaucoma:

What is glaucoma?

Quote from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1206147-overview:

“The definition of glaucoma has changed drastically since its introduction around the time of Hippocrates (approximately 400 BC). The word glaucoma came from the ancient Greek word glaucosis, meaning clouded or blue-green hue, most likely describing a patient having corneal edema or rapid evolution of a cataract precipitated by chronic elevated pressure. Over the years, extensive refinement of the concept of glaucoma has continued, accelerating, especially in the last 100 years, to the present date.

Glaucoma is currently defined as a disturbance of the structural or functional integrity of the optic nerve that causes characteristic atrophic changes in the optic nerve, which may also lead to specific visual field defects over time. This disturbance usually can be arrested or diminished by adequate lowering of intraocular pressure (IOP).”

Glaucoma is a disease

How do I know if I have glaucoma?  What are the signs and symptoms of glaucoma?

Unfortunately, in most cases of glaucoma, the patient does not feel anything at all!  Visual loss usually starts from the periphery (from the sides) so the person usually does not feel that he is already losing vision until the loss is large enough that he starts bumping into things.

However, some patients may experience sudden, severe eye pain, headache, sudden blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, seeing rainbows around lights (iridiscent vision).  This usually happens if the onset of the glaucoma is sudden (acute).

My doctor says that I am a glaucoma suspect and has requested for some tests.  What does this mean?

This means that your doctor probably thinks your optic nerve’s appearance looks suspicious and/or your intraocular pressure is elevated.  However, you will need to undergo other tests in order to establish if glaucoma is, indeed present.  These tests may include automated perimetry (to check your peripheral vision), optical coherence tomography (to check your retinal nerve fiber layer), gonioscopy (to check your angles — your drainage system), disc photos (photos of your optic nerve), etc.  The doctor will determine which tests you need.

Normal vision.This image is in the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the National Institutes of Health (http://www.nih.gov/)


A scene as it might be viewed by a person with glaucoma. This image is in the public domain because it contains materials that originally came from the National Institutes of Health (http://www.nih.gov/)

My doctor says that I have glaucoma.  But I feel fine and my vision is great.  Can I just take the medications when I feel something?

Glaucoma is often called “the thief in the night”.  That’s because you begin to lose vision even when you don’t feel it, as the visual loss begins from the periphery going to the center (see photos above).  By the time the visual loss is perceived, the damage has already been made.  Unfortunately, damage to the optic nerve is considered irreversible.  Hence it is important that maintenance eyedrops be put on a regular basis to slow down the progression of the disease.  Check this link out to view how the visual loss progresses.

I believe my doctor!  I am putting drops in my eyes for glaucoma.  He told me to go back for a follow up.  But I am very busy.  Can I just go back when I need to?

Follow-ups are VERY important in glaucoma.  During the follow up, your doctor will determine if the treatment is still working as planned so that any necessary changes may be made if it is not.

I used up the bottle of eyedrop that the doctor prescribed.  I am not yet scheduled to go back for follow up.  Do I stop the meds or do I continue?

Continue your medications.  The eyedrops are considered “lifetime” medications.  Unless your doctor tells you to stop, DON’T.

My doctor says that I need laser for my glaucoma.  What is this?  Will this improve my grade?

Depending on the type of glaucoma, your doctor may be referring to a laser iridectomy, a trabeculoplasty, an iridoplasty or a cycloablative procedure.  None of these are the same as LASIK, which is the most popular laser procedure designed to free you from the use of glasses.

The laser procedures used for glaucoma are designed to help lower the intraocular pressure (or IOP, the pressure inside the eye) because it has been proven that lowering the IOP slows down the progression of visual loss.

My doctor says that I will need surgery for my glaucoma.  Will this surgery improve my vision?

If your surgery is a simple filtering surgery (trabeculectomy), we don’t really expect any visual improvement.  If the surgery is a surgery combined with cataract, your vision will likely improve because your concomitant cataract has been removed.

I saw my doctor because I found that my vision is getting blurred.  I was told that I have glaucoma and was treated for a few months already.  When will my vision get better?  I don’t really see any improvement?

Unfortunately, treatment for glaucoma is designed to preserve the remaining vision.  Any vision that was previously lost due to the glaucoma is considered irreversible.  That is why it is important to catch the disease early, when any visual loss will be mild and not very noticeable to the patient.

I was told that I may have glaucoma.  How it that possible?  I am quite young.  I though only old people get the disease?

While glaucoma is most common for the elderly age group, it does occur to anybody of any age group.  Even babies and children may have glaucoma (congenital or developmental) although this is not very common.

I hope through this article, I have done a small part in educating the public about glaucoma.  Do feel free to ask me about this disease. :)

Basic Contact Lens Care

Photo: “January 8 - 15, 2011” by Victor Martinez, c/o Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

Although I’m also do online selling on the side, one thing I don’t sell is contact lenses.  That’s because I am well aware of the risks of contact lenses.

Let me qualify that.  I think contact lenses are a great invention, especially for people with high error of refraction.  However, many people who use contact lenses DO NOT know how to manage them.

What’s worse is that there are now people who wear cosmetic contact lenses without bothering to understand how to take care of it.

Some of the things you have to do when you are a contact lens wearer are pretty easy.

  • Don’t share contact lenses.  There are some people — especially those who do not have any error of refraction but simply wear contact lenses to change the color of their eyes– who share their contact lenses with friends in order to save.  This is not like a T-shirt or a blouse that you can lend to other people.  Treat contact lenses like you would treat your intimate wear.  It’s only for the use of one person.  Otherwise, you risk infections.
  • Don’t go to bed with your contact lenses on.  While there are newer contact lenses which are very oxygen permeable AND comfortable, so much so that it doesn’t hurt when you sleep with them, it’s still not a good idea to actually go to bed with them.  Most infections that we see involve people sleeping with their contact lenses on.  So, to be on the side of safety, do remove your contact lenses before you retire for the night and disinfect them well before putting them on in the morning.
  • Have a pair of glasses as backup.  I’m pretty surprised when my patients say that they do not wear glasses and do not even have a backup since they started wearing contact lenses.  What if they lost their contact lenses?  Or for some reason, they can’t wear their contact lenses?  Especially if the vision without correction is really bad.
  • Use your lubricant.  There’s a reason why it’s included in the starter kit.  Contact lens users are prone to dryness, resulting to occasional redness or stinging sensation.

Other tips:

  • After taking out your contact lens from the container that it’s been soaking in, throw away the solution that’s in the container and dry the container.  At the end of the day, you can use the container again with a fresh batch of solution.  Do not reuse the solution, as much as possible.  That’s because the solution may already be contaminated with microbes that may cause problems on your eyes.
  • Try to store your contact lens, the containers and the solution in your bedroom or somewhere else cleaner than the bathroom.  The bathroom is a source of microbes which might infect your contact lenses and accessories.
  • If you get eye irritation or infection, stop using your contact lenses and have yourself checked so that the proper management can be instituted promptly.  This is where your backup eyeglasses will come in handy.
  • Take “contact lens holidays” once in a while. :)
  • Buy your contact lenses from reputable retailers.  Especially those who can teach you to handle them properly.

So there!  Contact lenses are not really bad.  People just need to take care of them (and their eyes) more.  It’s sad that most complications that we get are actually preventable if only proper care were instituted.