Few eye conditions are as serious as glaucoma, which is the 2nd leading cause of blindness worldwide. It’s estimated that at least 3 million Americans currently live with glaucoma - but as many as half of the individuals living with it have no idea they are suffering from the disease. Stats like this highlight the need for increased awareness about glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a complicated disease that is characterized by chronic optic nerve damage and visual field loss. Unfortunately, any damage to the optic nerve can lead to progressive and even irreversible vision loss, which is what makes this disease so serious.
Causes Of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is most likely to be caused by a failure within the eye to properly maintain a healthyintraocular pressure, or IOP. This term refers to the normal state of pressure that exists within the eye. If this pressure elevates, it can contribute to the development of glaucoma, as the pressure will affect the optic nerve and slowly damage it.
However, while elevated eye pressure is a common contributor to glaucoma cases, even people with a normal IOP can develop glaucoma. Experts currently believe that patients with glaucoma who do not have elevated eye pressure levels may suffer from poor blood flow to the optic nerve.
Effects And Symptoms Of Glaucoma
While damage from glaucoma can cause vision distortions or even blindness, the condition initially presents with very few symptoms, if any. Eventually, most patients report a loss of peripheral vision as the condition advances. Other possible effects include the appearance of halos around lights, the development of tunnel vision, hazy vision, and complete vision loss.
Preventing & Addressing Glaucoma
While there is currently no surefire way to prevent glaucoma, regular eye exams will allow your doctors to find and treat the problem sooner rather than later, which will protect your eyes from the worst of its effects. Glaucoma tests during an eye exam are painless and very quick.
Certain people are more at risk of developing glaucoma than others, and should take care to schedule annual eye exams to ensure they are screened regularly for glaucoma. People at risk include patients who:
- Are over the age of 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Suffer from poor vision in general
- Have diabetes
- Experienced a traumatic event or accident that affected their eyes
- Are of African, African-Caribbean, Hispanic or Asian descent
Patients should also bring a list of any medications they are on to their eye doctor during their annual eye exam, as some medications can increase your risk of developing conditions such as glaucoma.
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