Occurring at any age but tends to be more common in older adults and often presenting itself with no warning signs, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. The Mayo Clinic defines glaucoma as a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is vital to good vision, and deteriorates more over time. Often, the damage is caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye with symptoms so gradual individuals may not realize a change in vision until the condition has reached an advanced stage.
The fluid that normally flows throughout the eye may either over produce or not drain properly which leads to build up. This build up causes increased pressure and cause the optic nerve to gradually deteriorate. Glaucoma is also hereditary. Scientists have identified certain genes in some individuals related to this high pressure and optic nerve damage. There are different types of glaucoma:
- Open-angle glaucoma:most common form of the disease, the drainage angle remains open, but partially blocked causing a gradual pressure buildup.
- Angle-closure glaucoma:occurs when full or near full blockage forms and the fluid cannot circulate throughout the eye causing increased pressure.
- Normal-tension glaucoma:although the eye pressure is within the normal range, the optic nerve still becomes damaged, possibly due to optic nerve sensitivity or a lower blood supply to this area.
- Adolescent glaucoma:with some, glaucoma may be present at birth or developed early in life, typically caused by drainage issues or other medical condition.
- Pigmentary glaucoma:with this type of glaucoma, pigment particles from the iris build up in the drainage area which causes the fluid to not drain properly and leads to increased pressure.
Glaucoma, if left untreated, will eventually lead to blindness. But, even with treatment, approximately 15 percent of individuals with glaucoma will become blind in one or both eyes. Depending on the stage of your condition, the signs and symptoms of the different types of glaucoma will vary. For example:
- You will experience blind spots in your peripheral or central vision, typically in both eyes.
- You will experience tunnel vision with advanced stages.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma
- You will experience blurred vision.
- You will experience nausea and vomiting.
- You will experience severe headaches.
- You will experience halos around lights.
- You will experience eye pain and redness.
Annual eye exams are key to early detection but contact an ophthalmologist immediately if experiencing symptoms such as severe headaches, blurred vision and eye pain. Glaucoma may not be preventable, but following these steps may allow for early detection, limited vision loss or even slowing the progress of the disease:
- Regular eye care
- Knowing the family’s health history
- Exercise moderately
- Use prescribed eye drops
- Wear eye protection
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