Glaucoma is a term used to refer to a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve due to abnormally high pressure in the eye. Since the optic nerve is key for vision, Glaucoma can cause blindness. It is in fact one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.
However, it isn’t just the seniors, glaucoma can occur at any age. Glaucoma is a silent condition, which means that it can creep up unnoticed, gradually affecting vision until it is too late. Since it is irreversible, the only way to beat this condition is to get regular eye exams, including measurements of eye pressure. Glaucoma can be hereditary so if someone in the family has glaucoma, you should get tests done more often. This way a diagnosis can be made in the early stages and treated accordingly. With early interventions, loss of vision can be stalled or even prevented. If diagnosed with glaucoma, eye drops and medications are prescribed, often for the patient’s lifetime. If left untreated glaucoma results in blindness, so being diligent with the medication is imperative.
The symptoms for glaucoma can vary depending on the type of glaucoma one has. In case of open angle glaucoma, one may see patchy blind spots in the peripheral vision and if in advanced stages, a tunneling of vision that obliterates peripheral vision completely may occur.
In case of acute angle closure glaucoma, the symptoms can be even more elusive ranging from headaches to blurred vision, nausea and appearance of halos. It is important that these symptoms be reported to the doctor or ophthalmologist immediately.
While the doctors are yet to fully understand the depths of this condition, it is well documented that glaucoma occurs due to damage of the optic nerve from elevated eye pressure. Eye pressure increases when fluid or aqueous humor that flows throughout the inner eye builds up instead of draining as it is supposed to from the spot where the iris and cornea meet. If there is an overproduction of fluid or the drainage system doesn’t work as well as it should, eye pressure increases.
Apart from the more common open angle glaucoma which happens slowly and catches you unaware and angle closure glaucoma, which can occur suddenly, there is also the normal tension glaucoma which has the doctors puzzled. In this case, the optic nerve becomes damaged even though your eye pressure is within the normal range. One of the suspected reasons is lack of proper blood flow in the optic nerve. Apart from these, pigmentary glaucoma occurs when pigment granules from the iris block the drainage channels, thus keeping fluid from exiting the eye.
Sadly, glaucoma may also occur in infants or develop in early childhood. The reason again is the blockage in the fluid drainage and could be caused from birth or from an underlying condition.
To keep glaucoma at bay, make sure you know your family’s medical history, get regular eye tests, make regular exercise a part of your life and keep your eyes safe from injuries. If you do find out that you have glaucoma, make sure you use eye drops that your doctor prescribes with commitment.
Don’t let this furtive condition steal your eyesight!