Glaucoma is considered a major health problem, and it is estimated that over 2 million Americans have the disease, and as much as half of them may be unaware of the problem. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, in the United States alone, glaucoma of all types is the second most common cause of legal blindness, and is the leading cause of legal blindness among African Americans.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a common eye disease that may cause vision loss or even blindness because of damage to the optic nerve. Optic nerve connects the eye with the brain and carries visual information. Optic nerve is damaged as a result of fluid pressure inside the eyes.
What is the role of fluid in our eye?
The fluid which is known as “aqueous humor” nourishes our eye and keeps it healthy. After circulation, fluid flows out of the eye through a drain. If this drain is blocked, fluid cannot leave the eye as fast as it is produced. This cause’s fluid pressure or intra ocular pressure builds up in the eye.
Why does fluid pressure in the eye cause Glaucoma?
The increased fluid pressure or intra ocular pressure destroys the optic nerves in the eye, which leads to vision loss.
Are there different kinds of Glaucoma?
There are two main types of Glaucoma:
Open Angle Glaucoma is also known as wide-angle glaucoma or chronic open angle glaucoma. This is the most common type of glaucoma mainly affects adults over age 35. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the drain of the eye, by the time open angle glaucoma is detected, it has already begun the damage.
Angle Closure Glaucoma is also known as narrow angle closure glaucoma. It is less common than open angle glaucoma. In angle closure glaucoma, the drainage angle of the eye narrows and becomes completely blocked that builds up pressure rapidly. Symptoms include severe pain and nausea, redness of the eye and blurred vision.
Who are likely to get Glaucoma?
Although anyone, children to older adults can get glaucoma, some people are at high risk who:
- Are above age 40
- Have a family history of Glaucoma
- Have higher than normal intra ocular pressure
- Have Diabetes
- Have poor vision (Nearsightedness)
- Have Hypertension (High blood pressure)
- Have previous eye injury
- Take corticosteroid medications
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What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?
At first, there are no noticeable symptoms of glaucoma. The loss of vision occurs very slowly often over a period of years. People might not realize that they are losing their vision until it’s too late. By the time they notice, the eye damage is severe.
If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your physician immediately:
· Loss of peripheral vision
· Redness in the eye
· Eye that looks hazy
· Pain in the eye
· Nausea or vomiting
· Vision loss
How can I know if I am suffering with Glaucoma?
You won’t know until your side vision is lost. Therefore it is recommended to have a complete eye exam with an eye specialist every one to two years. Early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma can prevent damage to the eye’s nerve cells and prevent vision loss.
How can Glaucoma be treated?
Glaucoma may be treated with either prescription medications (eye drops, pills) or surgery (Laser surgery, micro surgery). Medication is usually tried first. The purpose of treatment is to reduce the intraocular pressure in the eye so that further nerve damage and vision loss are prevented.
Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?
Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if it is diagnosed and treated on time, the disease can be controlled.
What can I do to protect my vision?
Studies have shown that early detection and treatment of glaucoma is the best way to control the disease. So, if you fall into one of the high-risk groups for the disease, make sure to have your eyes examination every two years by an eye specialist.