What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the internal fluid pressure of your eye rises to a point that the optic nerve is damaged. The pressure that builds up is usually due to inadequate drainage of fluid normally produced in your eyes. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S.
What causes glaucoma?
The exact cause of glaucoma is not known. For some reason, the passages that allow fluid within your eye to drain out become blocked or clogged. This results in fluid building up within your eye and increasing pressure on the optic nerve. The nerve fibers and blood vessels in the optic nerve can easily be damaged by this pressure, resulting in loss of vision.
Injuries, infections, or tumors in or around the eye can also cause the pressure to rise.
Who gets glaucoma?
Glaucoma most frequently occurs in individuals over the age of 40, and there is a hereditary tendency for the development of the disease in some families. It is estimated that over 2 million Americans have glaucoma and this number is expected to rise as the population grows.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease. It occurs more frequently in African Americans than in Caucasians, causes damage at an earlier age and leads to blindness at a much greater rate. There is also a greater tendency for glaucoma to develop in individuals who are nearsighted or who have diabetes.
For those over the age of 35, regular optometric examinations are particularly important as a preventive eye care measure.
Will I go blind from glaucoma and how can I tell if I have it?
If diagnosed at an early stage, glaucoma can often be controlled and little or no further vision loss may occur. If left untreated, first peripheral vision and then central vision will be affected and blindness may result.
The signs of glaucoma can vary depending on the type. Primary open angle glaucoma often develops slowly and painlessly, with no early warning signs. It can gradually destroy your vision without you knowing it. The first indication may occur after some vision has already been lost.
Acute angle closure glaucoma, which results from a sudden blockage of drainage channels in your eye, causes a rapid buildup of pressure accompanied by blurred vision, the appearance of colored rings around lights and pain and redness of the eyes.
Can it be treated or prevented?
Unfortunately, it cannot be prevented. But early detection and treatment can control glaucoma and reduce the chances of damage to the eye and a loss of vision.
Glaucoma is usually effectively treated with prescription eye drops and medicines that must be taken regularly. In some cases, laser therapy or surgery may be required. The goal of the treatment is to prevent loss of vision by lowering the fluid pressure in the eye.
Compliments of: American Optometric Association