Glaucoma is more common than the general public mayrealize, affecting mainly those who are 40 years of age and over; however, itcan occur at any age. Glaucoma is asignificant reason that regular eye exams are so important.
Though the disease is not curable, earlydetection of Glaucoma is important as it is treatable. Early detection helps toprevent damage to the optic nerve of the eye, preserving vision. Glaucoma causes an increase in the pressure,specifically known as intraocular pressure, of the eye caused by fluid that isunable to properly drain. This can cause damage the optic nerve. Over time,this results in diminished vision and can end in blindness. In fact, glaucomais the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age. Glaucoma can be caused in various ways.
It can takethe form of a genetic condition and be inherited but other factors can alsoincrease the chances of developing the condition. Risk factors for Glaucoma are – blood pressure, beingover the age of 40, African or Hispanic heritage, having high eye pressure, arefarsighted or nearsighted, injury to the eye, corneas which are thin in thecenter, thinning of the optic nerve, having diabetes or migraines, poor bloodcirculation or other health problems which affect the whole body. However, allpeople who have high eye pressure will not necessarily develop Glaucoma. Someoptic nerves can tolerate more pressure than others. (National Eye Institute,Facts about Glaucoma).There are variations of Glaucoma with two primarytypes.
Primary open – angle glaucoma normallyhas a slow onset. The fluid in the eye does not drain properly causing damageover time. As fluid accumulates in the eye, the same amount should drain out.
When the intraocular fluid does not drain properly from the eye the pressure isincreased on the optic nerve causing damage. Often times with open-angleGlaucoma symptoms would not be noticeable and vision loss would not be apparentuntil it is significant. The peripheral vision usually disappears first.
My first encounter with Glaucoma was with a closefamily member who survived a stroke. Strokes can cause pressure on the nervesin the eye, thus causing the development of Glaucoma. (ADD MORE HERE OR DELETE)Angle-closure glaucoma, sometimes known as”closed-angle or narrow-angle” Glaucoma is caused when the iris is close to thedrainage angle and the drain can develop a total blockage. In this type, immediatecare is needed to prevent severe damage or blindness. Symptoms can includeblurry vision, eye pain, nausea, headaches, and rainbow colored rings and halosaround lights. A complete eye exam is the only way to detectGlaucoma. A complete eye exam checks for the thinness of the cornea, thethickness of the optic nerve, eye pressure, peripheral vision and the drainageangle of the eyes.
To treat glaucoma, the most common method of relief isthrough the use of eye drops. Eye drops help the eye to produce less fluid and/orhelp the liquid to drain more easily. In some extreme cases, surgery may becomenecessary to reduce pressure.
A surgical procedure called Trabeculoplasty isused to treat open-angle glaucoma by using a laser to make the drainage anglefunction efficiently. Iridotomy is a procedure used to treat angle-closure Glaucomaby creating a tiny hole in the iris to help fluid flow away and avoid ablockage. Glaucoma can affect almost anyone. Regular eye exams arethe most important factor in early detection to help control damage to theoptic nerve. Once the nerve is damaged, it cannot be completely restored.
Awareness of the importance of regular eye exams is the key to maintaining ourvision. (American College ofOphthalmology, Boyd, Kierstan, 3/2017)