What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease related to a build-up of pressure within the eye that can damage the optic nerve, which carries the images you see through your eyes to the brain. If glaucoma is untreated, it can lead to permanent damage to vision and, eventually, blindness. Initially, it can occur without any symptoms you notice.
Glaucoma is one reason why an annual, comprehensive eye exam is essential in catching the disease early before it progresses. There are two major types of glaucoma:
- Primary open-angle glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is the most common type. It shows up as a painless buildup of pressure in the eye. Fluid is created in the eye, and when it reaches the right pressure, it normally flows out slowly through a channel. However, if the eye’s channel gets blocked, the liquid can build up. The reason this happens is not clear, but blocked blood vessels inside the eye and inflammatory conditions can be contributing factors.
- Angle-closure glaucoma: Also called “closed-angle glaucoma” or “narrow-angle glaucoma”, this type of glaucoma happens when the iris of the eye is very close to their drainage angle (where the fluid drains from the front of the eye). The iris is the colored part of your eye that controls the light getting into your eye. The iris can sometimes block the drainage angle, causing a quick rise in eye pressure, resulting in an emergency.
Although there may be no initial symptoms, as it progresses, it can cause:
- Blurry vision
- Halos around lights
- Blind spots in your peripheral vision
- Sharp pain Headaches
What is my risk of developing glaucoma?
People with certain risk factors have a higher chance of developing glaucoma. Having a comprehensive eye exam is the best way to determine your risk of developing glaucoma. Here are some risk factors to keep in mind:
- Over 40 years of age
- Family history of glaucoma
- African, Hispanic, or Asian heritage
- High eye pressure
- Use of long-term steroid medications
- Corneas that are thin in the center
- Thinning of the optic nerve
- Diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, and/or low blood circulation
How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma treatment usually begins with prescription eyedrops. These may help decrease eye pressure by improving how fluid drains from your eye or reducing the amount of fluid your eye makes. Other treatment options can include laser therapy and various surgical procedures depending on the type and severity of glaucoma.
How is glaucoma diagnosed, and what can you do?
In addition to a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor will evaluate your:
- Eye pressure
- Eye's drainage angle
- Optic nerve
- Peripheral vision
- Cornea thickness
Be diligent about following your eye doctor’s recommended treatment plan. It is essential to take your eye drops as prescribed, keep your regularly scheduled appointments, and update your doctor with any changes or concerns in your vision.