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The normal eye is cased in the eyeball or the globe that lies in the orbit. This is filled with jelly like material called the vitreous humor. There are associated structures like:
The anterior chamber or front compartment of the eye that has the cornea in front and iris, pupil and the lens behind is filled with a watery fluid called the aqueous humor. This nourishes the cornea and the lens and provides them with oxygen and vital nutrients. The aqueous humor also functions to provide necessary pressure to help maintain the shape of the eye. This pressure is called the intraocular pressure (IOP).
Glaucoma describes a group of eye conditions that affect vision. It may affect both eyes and each eye may progress in a variable way. The primary feature of glaucoma is high IOP.
Glaucoma usually occurs if there is blockage in the drainage tubes (trabecular meshwork) within the eye. This prevents the flow and drainage of aqueous humour. This builds up pressure within the eye. High pressure within the eye leads to damage to the optic nerve and the nerve fibres from the retina. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
There are four main types of glaucoma. These include:
For diagnosis of glaucoma an instrument called the Tonometer is used to measure the pressure in the eye. Further tests are prescribed to check the visual field and the examination of the retina and optic nerve using ophthalmoscopy are prescribed.
Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops containing medications. In some cases laser treatment or surgery is also used for treatment. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause visual impairment.
Regular visits to the ophthalmologist for detection of early signs of glaucoma can help prevent worsening of glaucoma.
Worldwide 12.5 million people are blind from glaucoma. In England around 480,000 people have chronic open-angle glaucoma. It is seen in about one in 50 people above 40 years old and one in 10 people above 75 years old among white Europeans. It is more common among people of black-African or black-Caribbean origins.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma may affect about one in 1,000 people in the white population. It is more common among those of Asian origin (1 in 100 population). There are over a million glaucoma-related hospital outpatient visits in England every year.