Glaucoma affects nearly 4 million Americans. Many of them do not know that they have it.
Glaucoma is a group of related eye disorders often characterized by high intraocular pressure (IOP), which can damage the optic nerve.
The disease rarely presents immediate symptoms, making an early diagnosis extremely important...
The First Step: Determine the Type of Glaucoma
Gradual Peripheral Vision Loss
Gradual reduction of peripheral vision without other symptoms can indicate primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), in which drainage of fluid from the eye is constricted, but not completely blocked.
Sudden Pain and Visual Distortion
The sudden onset of symptoms such as eye pain, headaches, halos around lights, dilated pupils, and nausea can indicate acute angle-closure glaucoma, in which drainage becomes completely blocked.
Vision Loss with Normal IOP
Vision loss caused by damage to the optic nerve while IOP remains within a normal range can indicate normal-tension glaucoma.
Genetics Plays an Important Role In Addition to Other Factors
Studies have shown that glaucoma affects African Americans and Hispanics at three times the rate of non-Hispanic whites. The condition also tends to run in families and is more prevalent in patients over the age of 40. There is also a higher risk of developing glaucoma among patients who:
- Are nearsighted or farsighted
- Have experienced eye trauma
- Have thin corneas
- Suffer from diabetes, migraines, or poor blood circulation
How does it cause vision loss?
The Effects of Glaucoma
Elevated IOPAbnormally high IOP is caused by a buildup of a fluid (aqueous humor) within the eye. This fluid normally drains through the front of the eye where the iris and cornea meet. When fluid is overproduced, or there is a problem with drainage, IOP can reach dangerous levels.
Damage to the Optic NerveIncreased IOP can cause small fibers in the optic nerve to stop functioning properly. As this nerve begins to deteriorate, your vision can become permanently compromised.
"It appears that OPP (ocular perfusion pressure) is largely determined by cardiovascular fitness. We cannot comment on the cause, but there is certainly an association between a sedentary lifestyle and factors which increase glaucoma risk." Paul J. Foster, MD, PhD, University College London Institute of Ophthalmology
Healthy Lifestyle Choices Can Help Prevent Glaucoma
Maintaining an active lifestyle appears to be an effective way to reduce the risk of glaucoma and many other serious health problems.
In addition to regular exercise, evidence suggests that you can reduce your risk of glaucoma by not smoking.
See an OphthalmologistIt is very important to undergo regular eye exams every two years, or once per year if you are age 60 or older.
Diagnosing Glaucoma How to Test for the Condition
|5 min exam
A tonometer is used to measure your IOP.
There are 3 primary steps:
- Your eye is typically numbed with eye drops.
- A small probe gently rests against the surface of the eye.
- Other tonometers send a puff of air onto the surface of the eye.
A short, painless exam can reveal glaucoma symptoms and help protect your vision.
Four Primary Glaucoma Treatments
Some medicated eye drops can reduce the amount of fluid that is produced by the eye, while others can improve drainage.
Your doctor may recommend a beta blocker or similar medication that can decrease the amount of fluid that is produced in the eye.
Your doctor may use a laser to open the drainage canal and improve the outflow of fluid.
While the American Academy of Ophthalmology maintains their position that medication and surgical treatments have been tested and proven as effective for glaucoma, several studies have also shown that medical marijuana may temporarily lower intraocular pressure in patients. Having an open and honest conversation with your doctor can help you choose the right treatment for you.
Speak with a Doctor
Glaucoma typically presents without symptoms, and can quickly lead to loss of vision or total blindness without the appropriate treatment.
The good news is that with early detection, glaucoma can be controlled and vision loss can be prevented. If you are experiencing glaucoma symptoms or any other vision changes, or if you are overdue for an eye exam, speak with a doctor today to protect your vision.