Diseases are an inevitable part of life. The importance of educating oneself about their unique anatomy and physiology is critical. While some diseases are easy to prevent, others are a natural process of life due to our environmental influences or genes. Understanding them will allow us to develop preventative methods and to be aware of their unique symptoms. However, what can someone do when a disease presents itself with few to no signs or symptoms of its presence? The following paper will outline and discuss the anatomy and physiology of Glaucoma in order to educate patients to be more aware of its dangers and discuss the preventatives.
Our vision is often taken for granted. We wake up and we begin each day without even thinking about how fortunate we are that we are able to see. Imagine waking up one morning, opening your eyes and only seeing complete darkness without any prior warnings. This is what can happen should you be suffering from some form of Glaucoma. Glaucoma can gradually take your vision without very many signs or symptoms. The damage is irreversible, which makes it so dangerous. In patients who suffer from Glaucoma, the progression of the disease isn’t usually noticed until the very last stages, where their visual acuity (clarity/sharpness) begins to deplete rapidly. Fortunately, there are ways this severe disease can be avoided. There are several forms of glaucoma. Although each are unique, they all share similar characteristics. The main type of Glaucoma which will be examined deeper and intricately discussed in this paper is open-angled glaucoma, which affects more than 3 million Americans per year, of which only half have been diagnosed.
In humans, cranial nerves share information between the brain and different areas of the body to process and allow those areas to function properly. In total, there are twelve. The second of the cranial nerves is called the optic nerve. According to the National Eye Institute, Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve. (National Eye Institute, 2017) The optic nerve is what relays all the visual information between the brain and the eyes. Whenever this pathway is disrupted, it can result in loss of vision or even blindness. Glaucoma damages this optic nerve. In our eyes there is a thin plasma-like fluid called the Aqueous Humor which is secreted by the ciliary body in order to provide the eye with its shape, nutrients and maintain intraocular pressures (Aqueous Humour, 2017) The aqueous humor flows from the posterior chamber to the anterior chamber of the eye and then drains through the Trabecular Meshwork, shown below (“Flow of Aqueous Humor, 2017”)
The aqueous humor is so vital to our visual health. The input and output flow must remain at their normal rate and drain properly through its canal. Whenever the Trabecular Meshwork is draining partially or not at all, the Aqueous Humor builds up in the chambers causing the pressure of the eye to increase. Raising pressures on the retina is dangerous because it causes severe damage to the optic nerve fibers and cells with little signs or symptoms that it is occurring (Mandal, 2009). Whenever the damage occurs, the optic nerve is no longer able to relate messages back and forth from the eye and brain, thus causing vision loss and blindness.
How to Prevent Glaucoma
Unfortunately, this terrible disease has no cure, is irreversible and once diagnosed, requires life-long treatment with medicine such as eye drops or even surgery (Glaucoma, n.d.) Nevertheless, there are many ways to prevent Glaucoma and it is a lot easier than what one would expect. One of the simplest preventatives is to schedule a yearly eye exam with your eye doctor to ensure your vision is healthy. Early detection is by far the best way to treat Glaucoma, should you be diagnosed. Your eye doctor will conduct an exam to check the intraocular pressures to ensure they are in their normal ranges as well as perform certain tests to check if the optic nerve and the brain are communicating correctly, such as the Visual Field testing. Advances in technology have allowed other instruments used by vision health professionals such as Optical Coherance Tomograpy to get a virtually 3D look at the layers of the retina and other structures of the eye to determine the health of a patients eyes (Optovue, 2017). These instruments and tests are a great way of determining if one is showing signs of Glaucoma. Making a trip to the optometrists is a very important way to make sure one is on top of their eye health and avoid developing the disease or further progression to those already affected.
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