Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that can significantly impact a person's quality of life, but unfortunately, it often goes unnoticed until it is too late. In fact, it's the . This condition can cause irreversible vision loss, which is why it is important to take preventive measures, like regular eye appointments.
Luckily, knowledge is power when it comes to preventing and managing glaucoma. By understanding the risk factors, causes, symptoms, and treatments for glaucoma, you can be better prepared to protect your vision.
What Is Glaucoma?
is an eye condition caused by optic nerve damage. The optic nerve is a structure in the eye that is responsible for sending signals from the eye to the brain. When these signals are disrupted, it can lead to vision loss and eventually complete blindness.
In most glaucoma causes, the optic nerve is damaged by an increase in eye pressure. This elevated eye pressure, also called intraocular pressure (IOP), is caused by the buildup of fluid in the front part of the eye. When IOP gets too high, it presses down on the optic nerve, damaging it. However, some people with high eye pressure never get glaucoma, while some with normal eye pressure do.
Unfortunately, we don't yet have a cure for glaucoma. Though it requires lifelong management, with early detection and proper treatment, some vision loss can be prevented.
Types Of Glaucoma
There are several types of glaucoma, each of which forms in its own way. The most common type is primary open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for the majority of glaucoma cases. Open-angle glaucoma is marked by a buildup of IOP due to a clog in the eye's drainage canals. This build-up happens gradually over a long period of time, but if caught early, some damage and vision loss can be mitigated.
The second most common type is acute angle-closure glaucoma, also known as narrow-angle glaucoma or closed-angle glaucoma. With this type, IOP is increased due to the iris, or the colored part of the eye, blocking fluid from draining. As a result, this fluid quickly builds and puts pressure on the optic nerve, ultimately causing blindness in a matter of days. In other words, this kind of glaucoma is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Some less common forms of glaucoma include:
- Congenital glaucoma: This type is present at birth and is a result of abnormal or incomplete development of the eye's drainage canals.
- Normal tension glaucoma: This form of glaucoma is characterized by optic nerve damage and vision loss, despite IOP levels being within the normal range.
- Secondary glaucoma: This type is related to a separate medical issue or condition, like diabetes, eye injury, inflammation, or certain medications.
- Traumatic glaucoma: This kind of glaucoma is caused by blunt force trauma or a penetrating injury. It can happen immediately or many years after the incident.
Signs And Symptoms
- At first, glaucoma typically doesn't present itself with symptoms. In fact, don't know it! Over time, however, damage to the optic nerve can cause a few signs, such as:Tunnel vision in one or both eyes
- Loss of peripheral (side) vision in one or both eyes
- Blurred vision
- Halos around lights
- Difficulty adapting to darkness
- Mild to severe eye pain
Although anyone can get glaucoma, there are a few risk factors that can increase your chances of developing it. The biggest risk is getting older, as glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 60. However, if you have a family history of glaucoma, you may be at an increased risk even if you're younger.
Other factors can also play a role in your risk. People who are Hispanic, Latino, or Black, for example, are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma when compared to other groups. Certain health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, and nearsightedness can also put you at a higher risk.
Though you can't change your genetics or stop yourself from aging, there are still steps you can take to prevent glaucoma or its progression. In fact, maintaining your overall health is a great way to protect your eye health. By eating well, staying active, and avoiding smoking, you can help keep your eyes healthy.
The key to glaucoma prevention, however, is regular eye exams. During these tests, your eye doctor can check for signs of glaucoma and make sure your IOP is at a safe level. Early detection is key to protecting your vision and the sooner you get checked, the better!
If your eye doctor does discover something, the Everett & Hurite team is proud to provide glaucoma treatment. Your ophthalmologist will conduct a comprehensive eye exam, review your medical history, and use the information gathered to develop a personalized treatment plan.
Because glaucoma can cause irreversible damage to the eyes, the goal of treatment is often to prevent further damage. For early-stage glaucoma, a conservative approach involving specialized eye drops and medications may be enough. In fact, the use of medicated eye drops is the most common way to treat glaucoma.
In more advanced cases, laser treatment may be necessary to restore healthy IOP levels. Depending on the specific type of glaucoma present and its root cause, laser surgery entails using targeted beams of light to create a tiny hole that will improve fluid drainage, or adjusting physical eye physiology to decrease eye pressure. In some cases, surgeons may also implant a glaucoma drainage device to help relieve pressure.
At Everett & Hurite, we use the latest technologies to treat glaucoma and provide quality care for our patients. We’re proud to offer a variety of treatment options that can help prevent damage to your eyes and resulting vision loss. Our team is committed to providing top-notch eye care and helping patients achieve healthy vision for life!