Glaucoma Explained: Risks, Symptoms, and Treatments
More than 76 million people throughout the world experience glaucoma. By 2040, more than 110 million people will have the condition. Yet very few people are aware of glaucoma.
What is glaucoma, and where does it come from? What are glaucoma symptoms like, and how does a person experience them through time? What are some treatment options, including glaucoma surgery?
Finding the answers to these questions can help you preserve your eye health for years to come. Here is your quick guide.
The Essentials of Glaucoma
The optic nerve is a bundle of nerves that lies behind the eye. It connects the retina to the brain, transmitting signals so the brain can process them.
Glaucoma is a category of conditions that center around the optic nerve. It can become damaged or faulty, causing eye problems that prevent a person from seeing clearly.
Glaucoma is not just blurry or imprecise vision. If someone does not pursue glaucoma treatment, they can go blind. Vision loss may be irreversible, even with surgery or advanced treatments.
Most cases of glaucoma occur due to intraocular pressure. This is pressure inside the eye that builds against the optic nerve, eventually damaging it.
Fluid can build up inside the eye and apply pressure. The eye may produce too much fluid, or the fluid may not drain out of the eye. It may not be clear what is causing a build-up of pressure until the condition develops into a late stage.
It is possible for blunt injury to the eye to result in glaucoma. But the optic nerve lies deep within the head, so an injury must be significant. On rare occasions, eye surgery can damage the nerve and lead to glaucoma.
If blood vessels become blocked inside the eye or around the nerve, the condition can develop. The optic nerve can become inflamed, preventing signals from passing through.
Types of Glaucoma
There are a few kinds of glaucoma that anyone can have. Open-angle or wide-angle glaucoma is a very common type of glaucoma. It occurs when fluid does not drain out of the back of the eye.
Some doctors regard normal-tension glaucoma as a variant of open-angle glaucoma. As the name suggests, it occurs when eye pressure is normal but the optic nerve is damaged. It usually develops after an accident or a blood disease.
Angle-closure glaucoma involves the iris and cornea. If the two are too close together, the eye cannot drain fluid properly. This form of glaucoma can cause cataracts and farsightedness in addition to eventual blindness.
Pigmentary glaucoma develops when parts of the iris get into the eye fluid. The drainage canals become clogged, causing the disorder to develop.
There are numerous risk factors that contribute to the condition. Age is the most prominent one. People older than 40 are far more likely to get glaucoma than younger people.
People with a family history of glaucoma are also at higher risk. A family history of other eye conditions can contribute, especially if the conditions relate to eye pressure. People with thinner corneas tend to have glaucoma more often than people with thick ones.
Genes may be a component in glaucoma. 10% to 33% of people who develop open-angle glaucoma as children have a genetic predisposition to glaucoma.
Medications can contribute to the condition. Steroids like prednisone and seizure medication may impede blood flow behind the eye.
Blood health and eye health are closely related to each other. A blood condition like high blood pressure or heart disease can impede blood flow to the eyes and create glaucoma.
The symptoms of glaucoma depend on the kind of glaucoma a person has. Open-angle glaucoma causes blind spots in both eyes. Someone may not be able to see out of the corners of their eyes.
Angle-closure glaucoma can result in blurred vision and eye pain. Some people may experience severe headaches, nausea, and eye redness.
During the initial stages of glaucoma, a person may not have any symptoms. They may attribute blind spots or blurry vision to another eye condition or to fatigue and sleep deprivation.
A doctor cannot diagnose glaucoma from symptoms alone. They may perform one or more tests to assess how the eyes are doing. A dilated eye exam allows a doctor to look at the optic nerve, while a visual acuity test examines vision loss.
Once the condition is diagnosed, a person can begin treatment. Eye drops can help fluid drain out of the eye and lower eye pressure. Oral medications like beta-blockers can provide the same effects.
Glaucoma surgery is a last resort if other treatments are not working. Laser surgery involves using small lasers to open the drainage area and allow fluid to exit.
During microsurgery, a doctor will make a small incision that creates a channel for fluid to drain. A person will receive an anesthetic so they do not feel pain during the procedure. It can provide years of relief from symptoms, though there is no permanent cure for glaucoma.
People who have diabetes or a similar condition must take comprehensive steps to protect their health. Essential eye care for diabetes includes regular visits to eye doctors and controlling blood sugar levels.
Get Comprehensive Treatment for Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a degenerative eye condition. It occurs when the optic nerve becomes damaged, blocked, or irritated. Most cases occur after eye pressure builds up to dangerous levels.
Risk factors include old age and a family history of the condition. Symptoms may not be noticeable at first, but blind spots can become significant.
Tests can diagnose the condition. A person can get underway with treatment, trying out eye drops and medication. Surgery involves opening channels so pressure can release.
Don’t hesitate with your vision. Brown and Toland Physicians connects you to premium eye doctors. Find a doctor today.
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The content of this Website or Blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website or Blog.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately, call your doctor, or go to the emergency room/urgent care.