What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. However, with early detection and treatment, you can often protect your eyes against serious vision loss.
How does the optic nerve get damaged by open-angle glaucoma?
Several large studies have shown that eye pressure is a major risk factor for optic nerve damage. In the front of the eye is a space called the anterior chamber. A clear fluid flows continuously in and out of the chamber and nourishes nearby tissues. The fluid leaves the chamber at the open angle where the cornea and iris meet. When the fluid reaches the angle, it flows through a spongy meshwork, like a drain, and leaves the eye.
In open-angle glaucoma, even though the drainage angle is “open”, the fluid passes too slowly through the meshwork drain. Since the fluid builds up, the pressure inside the eye rises to a level that may damage the optic nerve. When the optic nerve is damaged from increased pressure, open-angle glaucoma-and vision loss—may result. That’s why controlling pressure inside the eye is important.
Primary open angle glaucoma is the most common type and results in a slow loss of vision with no discernible symptoms. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is less common and results in a sudden elevation of pressure and symptoms of pain, redness and nausea, making it easier to catch.
Secondary glaucoma is another form that can result from an injury, infection or a tumour in or around the eye, causing an increase in eye pressure.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
Consider whether you are at greater risk for Glaucoma, including:
- being over the age of 40
- having a family history of the disease (a hereditary tendency does exist in some families)
- having African American ancestry (the disease tends to appear earlier and progress faster)
- if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of eye injuries
Regular eye examinations by an optometrist are important for people of all ages to assess the presence of, or risk for, glaucoma. It’s not possible to detect the presence of glaucoma without an eye exam.
At first, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms. It causes no pain. Vision stays normal. Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes.
Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision. As glaucoma remains untreated, people may miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead (central) vision may decrease until no vision remains.
Immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay progression of the disease. That’s why early diagnosis is very important.
Glaucoma treatments include medicines, laser treatments, conventional surgery, or a combination of any of these. While these treatments may save remaining vision, they do not improve sight already lost from glaucoma.
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Background information taken from: http://www.nei.nih.gov