Facts About Glaucoma

GlaucomaGlaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in Americans. It is a disease that damages the optic nerve, which is responsible for sending signals to the brain. The optic nerve is commonly damaged by pressure on the nerve called intraocular pressure (IOP). Sometimes the optic nerve is damaged due to decreased blood flow to the eye. The exact causes of Glaucoma are unknown. There is evidence that the disease can be genetic. African Americans have a particularly high incidence of glaucoma. Glaucoma can be divided into two broad categories, primary glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma. Primary glaucoma is not caused by another disease or condition. Secondary glaucoma results from another problem such as diabetes or eye injury.

Types Of Glaucoma

Congenital Glaucoma

This condition occurs in infants who experience birth defects or have neurofibromatosis. You may be able to see symptoms by looking in the child’s eye. They may have clouded eyes, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, and a protruding eyeball. If not diagnosed and treated immediately, it can result in blindness.

Infantile Glaucoma

Occurs between birth and age 3.

Juvenile Glaucoma

Occurs between age 3 and adulthood.

Chronic Open-angle Glaucoma (OAG)

The optic nerve is slowly damaged in open-angle glaucoma, also called wide-angle glaucoma or primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). Peripheral vision is slowly diminished and eventually may lead to full blindness if not treated.

Closed-angle Glaucoma (CAG)

This type of glaucoma is characterized by a build up of pressure stemming from blocked fluid in the eye. The fluid between the iris and the lens creates pressure that damages the optic nerve. It causes pain and sudden impairment of vision. Acute CAG requires emergency medical treatment because permanent vision loss can happen in a short period of time with this condition.

Classifications For Glaucoma Severity

Mild Glaucoma

Optic nerve damage with minimal vision loss.

Moderate Glaucoma

Optic nerve damage with moderate loss of vision, but central vision remains intact.

Severe Glaucoma

Optic nerve damage with loss of sight in peripheral and central vision.

Ocular Hypertension

No perceptible optic nerve damage but pressure levels higher than 21 mm Hg in the eye and some loss of vision.

Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Glaucoma

Glaucoma DetectionSometimes glaucoma will show no symptoms in its early stages. There is no cure for glaucoma, but treatment can slow the progression of the disease and possibly prevent complete blindness. If you detect some of the following symptoms you should have your eyes evaluated right away.

  • Loss of peripheral vision or tunnel vision
  • Redness and pain in the eyes
  • Blurred vision or any loss or impairment of eyesight
  • Clouded, hazy-looking eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Halos or rings around lights
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty in adjusting to the dark

An examination of your medical history, eye test and physical check up of the eye will help your doctor to detect if you have glaucoma. A peripheral vision test is often used for glaucoma testing. In this test you will be asked to identify a blinking light placed in the outer field of your vision.

Glaucoma Treatment Options

Glaucoma TreatmentTreatment of glaucoma is directed at maintaining a proper balance of fluid in the eye to decrease the pressure on the optic nerve. Eye drops are used to decrease fluid production or promote more efficient drainage of fluid in the eye. Some people opt for surgery to slow vision loss. Laser surgery can reduce production of fluid or make a drainage hole for the fluid. Microsurgical methods create more drainage for the excess fluid present in the eye, but they are riskier than laser surgery techniques. Although there is no cure, close medical attention can preserve as much of your eyesight as possible.

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