Glaucoma is a fairly common ocular condition, affecting more than three million Americans. It is also currently the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma occurs when your optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting messages from your eye to your brain, becomes damaged by pressure resulting from an accumulation of fluid inside your eye. When this happens, it can distort and eventually completely stop the transmission of these messages, and the patient loses their vision.
It is often unclear exactly why a patient develops glaucoma, but there are certain factors that are considered to increase the likelihood of suffering from the disease. These include:
- Your age. Glaucoma is more frequently diagnosed in older patients.
- Your family history. Studies have shown that people with a sibling, parent, or grandparent with the condition are also more likely to develop glaucoma.
- Your ethnicity. Those of African, Caribbean and Asian origin are more likely to develop glaucoma at a younger age.
- If you suffer from certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, or you have been diagnosed with long or short-sightedness.
There are several types of glaucoma with the most common being known as open-angle and closed-angle. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of all, accounting for at least 90% of all glaucoma cases. The main difference is that open-angle glaucoma develops slowly over time, while closed-angle glaucoma is abrupt, caused by a sudden increase in intraocular pressure.
Symptoms of glaucoma
One of the trickiest things about glaucoma is actually diagnosing it. The majority of people suffer from open-angle glaucoma, and most don’t suffer from any noticeable symptoms. Instead, they will experience a gradual loss of peripheral vision, which usually occurs in both eyes although not necessarily at the same time. As the condition progresses, the patient may experience tunnel vision.
However, since closed-angle glaucoma comes on suddenly, symptoms are much more obvious and include:
- Severe eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Reddening of the eye
Unfortunately, despite the technology and information now available, there is still no cure for glaucoma and those patients who lose their sight as a result of glaucoma are unable to regain their vision.
There is no established way to prevent glaucoma, but the most helpful advice provided by Ophthalmologists is to ensure that you get your eyes regularly examined.
We will include glaucoma screening as part of your regular eye examinations and sight test. By identifying the condition in its infancy, we will be able to recommend steps to take that will slow and potentially even halt its progression.
These could include using eye drops to reduce the pressure inside of your eyes. In some instances, we may refer you for surgery. If you are recommended eye drops, it is imperative that you take them as directed. Some patients feel that if they do not have any noticeable symptoms, there is no need to use their eyedrops. However, failing to use the drops could mean that your intraocular pressure is still increasing, even if you can’t tell.
Serious eye injuries have also been linked to the development of glaucoma. For this reason, it is strongly advised that you wear protective eyewear when playing high-speed racket sports or when using power tools.
Finally, a healthy diet and moderate exercise is crucial for your overall health and well-being. Many experts believe that these steps may help prevent intraocular pressure.
If you are concerned about glaucoma and would like to arrange for a screening, our friendly and reassuring team would be happy to schedule an appointment for you at our modern, comfortable facility.