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Are You At Risk Of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma

Are You At Risk Of Glaucoma?

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve.

The symptoms can start so slowly that you may not notice them, sometimes referred to as “The Silent Thief of Sight!” The only way to find out if you have glaucoma is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

There’s no cure for glaucoma, but early treatment can often stop the damage and protect your vision.

People who have higher eye pressure (Intraocular Pressure) are at higher risk for glaucoma. But each type of glaucoma is different — and for some of them, experts are still learning about the causes.

                              

How can eye pressure damage the optic nerve?

Research shows that higher eye pressure increases your risk for damage to the optic nerve. The pressure in your eye goes up if fluid can’t drain normally out of the front of your eye.

Between the cornea (clear front layer of the eye) and the iris (colored part of the eye), there’s a space called the “anterior chamber.” Fluid normally flows through this space and out of an opening where the iris and cornea meet. The opening has spongy tissue in it. The fluid passes through this spongy tissue as it drains out of the eye.

Five major types of glaucoma exist. These are:

Open-Angle (Chronic) Glaucoma

Open-angle, or chronic, glaucoma has no signs or symptoms except gradual vision loss. This loss may be so slow that your vision can suffer irreparable damage before any other signs become apparent. According the National Eye Institute (NEI), this is the most common type of glaucoma.

Angle-Closure (Acute) Glaucoma

If the flow of your aqueous humor fluid is suddenly blocked, the rapid buildup of fluid may cause a severe, quick, and painful increase in pressure. Angle-closure glaucoma is an emergency situation. You should call your doctor immediately if you begin experiencing symptoms, such as severe pain, nausea, and blurred vision.

Congenital Glaucoma

Children born with congenital glaucoma have a defect in the angle of their eye, which slows or prevents normal fluid drainage. Congenital glaucoma usually presents with symptoms, such as cloudy eyes, excessive tearing, or sensitivity to light. Congenital glaucoma can run in families.

Secondary Glaucoma

Secondary glaucoma is often a side effect of injury or another eye condition, such as cataracts or eye tumors. Medicines, such as corticosteroids, may also cause this type of glaucoma. Rarely, eye surgery can cause secondary glaucoma.

Normal Tension Glaucoma

In some cases, people without increased eye pressure develop damage to their optic nerve. The cause of this isn’t known. However, extreme sensitivity or a lack of blood flow to your optic nerve may be a factor in this type of glaucoma.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

At first, glaucoma doesn’t usually have any symptoms. That’s why half of people with glaucoma don’t even know they have it.

Over time, you may slowly lose vision, usually starting with your side (peripheral) vision — especially the part of your vision that’s closest to your nose. Because it happens so slowly, many people can’t tell that their vision is changing, especially at first.

But as the disease gets worse, you may start to notice that you can’t see things off to the side anymore. Without treatment, glaucoma can eventually cause blindness.

Did you know?
Glaucoma can happen in one eye or both eyes

Some people with high eye pressure don’t get glaucoma — and there’s a type of glaucoma that happens in people with normal eye pressure

The amount of eye pressure that’s normal varies by person — what’s normal for one person could be high for another

Who Is at Risk of Glaucoma?

Ask yourself these questions, as you maybe at a higher risk:

  • Did my parents, grandparents or great-grandparents lose their sight? What was
    the cause of their vision loss? Glaucoma occurs at least twice as frequently among
    people who have blood relatives with glaucoma.
  • Do I have diabetes?
  • Am I of African-American or of Afro-Caribbean descent? (if so, you are more likely to
    get glaucoma at a younger age.)
  •  Am I 40 years of age or older?
  • Have I had an eye injury or eye surgery, even as a child?
  •  Am I very nearsighted?
  •  Have I taken steroids on a long-term basis?

The risk factors for glaucoma include:

Age
People over 60 are at increased risk of glaucoma and the risk of glaucoma increases slightly with each year of age. If you’re African-American, your increase in risk begins at age 40.

Ethnicity
African-Americans or people of African descent are significantly more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians. People of Asian descent are at a higher risk of angle-closure glaucoma, and people of Japanese descent have a higher risk of developing low-tension glaucoma.

Eye Problems
Chronic eye inflammation and thin corneas can lead to increased pressure in your eyes. Physical injury or trauma to your eye, such as being hit in your eye, can also cause your eye pressure to increase.

Family History
Some types of glaucoma may run in families. If your parent or grandparent had open-angle glaucoma, you’re at an increased risk of developing the condition.

Medical History
People with diabetes and those with high blood pressure and heart disease have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.

Use of Certain Medicine
Using corticosteroids for extended periods may increase your risk of developing secondary glaucoma.

What’s the treatment for glaucoma?

Doctors use a few different types of treatment for glaucoma, including medicines (usually eye drops), laser treatment, and surgery.

If you have glaucoma, it’s important to start treatment right away. While it won’t undo any damage to your vision, treatment can stop it from getting worse.

 Medicines. Prescription eye drops are the most common treatment. They lower the pressure in your eye and prevent damage to your optic nerve.

 Laser treatment. To lower pressure in your eye, doctors can use lasers to help the fluid drain out of your eye. It’s a simple procedure that your doctor can do in the office.

 Surgery. If medicines and laser treatment don’t work, your doctor might suggest surgery. There are several different types of surgery that can help the fluid drain out of the eye.

Will a Person with Glaucoma Go Blind?

If your increased Intraocular Pressure can be stopped and the pressure returned to normal, vision loss can be slowed or even stopped. However, because there’s no cure for glaucoma, you’ll likely need treatment for the rest of your life to regulate your Intraocular Pressure . Unfortunately, vision lost as a result of glaucoma cannot be restored.

Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?

Glaucoma can’t be prevented, but it’s still important to catch it early so you can begin treatment that will help prevent it from getting worse. The best way to catch any type of glaucoma early is to have an annual preventive eye care appointment. Make an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Simple tests performed during these routine eye checks may be able to detect damage from glaucoma before it advances and begins causing vision loss.

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