The scariest thing about glaucoma is that this disease can steal your vision gradually and without your noticing. The best defense against glaucoma is a yearly eye examination. Glaucoma most often strikes people over age 50, but it is recommended that during adult life everyone be tested every year.
Some people with glaucoma do experience symptoms, but symptoms vary depending on the type of glaucoma.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. There are many different types of glaucoma, but the main two include:
- Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG)
By far the most common type, primary open-angle glaucoma develops gradually and painlessly. Since there are no early warning signs, it can slowly destroy your vision without your knowing it. The first indication may only occur after some considerable vision loss.
- Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma (ACG)
This results from a sudden blockage of the drainage channels within your eye, causing a rapid build-up of pressure inside your eye accompanied by blurred vision, the appearance of colored rings around lights, and sometimes extreme pain or redness in the eyes.
What causes glaucoma?
Some causes are known, others are not. Causes differ depending on the type of glaucoma. The exact cause of open-angle glaucoma, where the drainage channels for the aqueous appear to be open and clear, is not known. Closed-angle glaucoma can occur when the pupil dilates or gets bigger, blocking the drainage channel. An injury, infection or tumor in or around the eye can also cause internal eye pressure to rise either by blocking drainage or displacing tissues and liquid within the eye. A mature cataract also can push the iris forward to block the drainage 'angle' between the iris and the cornea. Glaucoma can occur secondarily to a number of other conditions, such as diabetes, or as a result of some medications for other conditions.
Who gets glaucoma?
Glaucoma most frequently occurs after age 40, but can occur at any age.
If you are of African heritage, you are more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma, and at an earlier age, than if you are Caucasian. Asians are more likely to develop narrow-angle glaucoma.
You have a higher risk of developing glaucoma if a close family member has it or if you have high blood pressure or high blood sugar (diabetes). There is also a greater tendency for glaucoma to develop in individuals who are nearsighted. Those at heightened risk for glaucoma should have their eyes checked at least once a year.
Why is glaucoma harmful to vision?
The optic nerve, located at the back of the eye, carries visual information to the brain. As the fibers that make up the optic nerve are damaged by glaucoma, the amount and quality of information sent to the brain decreases and a loss of vision occurs.
Will I go blind from glaucoma?
If diagnosed at an early stage, glaucoma can be controlled and little or no further vision loss should occur. If left
untreated, side awareness (peripheral vision) and central vision will be destroyed and blindness may occur.
How is glaucoma detected?
Tests for glaucoma are part of a comprehensive eye examination at Visualeyes Optometry. A simple and painless procedure called tonometry measures the internal pressure of your eye. Ophthalmoscopy examines the back of the eye to observe the health of the optic nerve. A visual field test, a very sensitive test that checks for the development of abnormal blind spots, will also be performed here.
How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma is usually treated with prescription eye drops and medicines. In some cases, surgery may be required to improve drainage. The goal of the treatment is to prevent loss of vision by lowering the pressure in the eye.
Will my vision be restored after treatment?
Unfortunately, any vision loss as a result of glaucoma is permanent and cannot be restored. This is why regular eye examinations are important.
Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but early detection and treatment can control glaucoma and reduce the chances
of damage to the eye and a loss of sight!