Glaucoma

Common Conditions



Glaucoma consists of a group of conditions which damage the optic nerve. This nerve is responsible for taking light from the retina and sending impulses to the brain which are perceived as vision. Damage to the optic nerve dramatically diminishes eyesight.

A normal eye is round and firm. When the internal pressure is too low, the eye becomes softer; when pressure is too high, the eye becomes harder. The optic nerve is the most susceptible part of the eye to high pressure and elevated pressure in the eye is the main factor leading to glaucoma. However, because glaucoma can be caused by a variety of factors, even people with “normal” levels of eye pressure can experience vision loss due to glaucoma.

Because early detection and effective treatment can protect eyesight from glaucoma, individuals between 18–60 years should have routine eye checkups, including glaucoma screening, every two years. A yearly eye checkup, with eye dilation, is recommended for those older than 60 as well as those with high risk factors for glaucoma. People shouldn’t wait for noticeable eye problems before making checkup appointments.

Causes/Risk Factors

The highest risk factors for glaucoma are elevated internal eye pressure, which can only be detected during a doctor’s examination, and age. People are six times more likely to get glaucoma if they are over 60 years old.

In addition, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans who are six to eight times more likely to get glaucoma than Caucasians. African Americans should begin to have their eye pressure monitored before age 30. Hispanic populations and people of Asian descent also face an increased risk of glaucoma.

Family history and individual medical conditions present other risk factors. Current medical findings indicate glaucoma may have a genetic link that causes members of some families to be unusually susceptible to the disease.

Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or even nearsightedness can increase a person’s risk for glaucoma. Using corticosteroid medications for prolonged periods of time, especially in eye drop form, also appears to create risk of glaucoma. Major eye injuries can cause glaucoma to occur immediately after the injury or even years later.

Symptoms

The two most common types of glaucoma present themselves very differently. There are few or no symptoms or warnings for Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG). On the other hand, people with Angle-Closure Glaucoma (ACG) sometimes experience gradual loss of peripheral vision, usually in both eyes, which then advances to tunnel vision. Other people experience more pronounced symptoms including severe eye pain and headache, sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting, as well as blurred vision, halos around lights, sudden visual disturbances in low light and reddening of the eye.

Treatment Options

Depending on the type of glaucoma being experienced, your doctor may suggest treatment involving medication and/or surgery to lower the pressure in the eye and prevent further damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma Implants Glaucoma Medication Glaucoma Surgery

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