Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders characterized by loss of nerve tissue that can lead to progressive vision loss and damage of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual signals from the eye to the brain.

Glaucoma is often found in adults over the age of 40, although it may be found in children too. The risk increases as one ages. It should be taken seriously as it is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. Studies show that this condition can be hereditary.

Symptoms

It is essential to seek professional medical help immediately if you exhibit any of the following symptoms of glaucoma so that a comprehensive eye examination may be conducted:

•    Vision loss
•    Hazy eyes especially in infants
•    Eye pain
•    Seeing halos around lights
•    Eye redness
•    Vomiting or nausea
•    Tunnel or narrowing vision.

Types and Causes

Here are the different types of glaucoma and their corresponding causes:

•    Primary open-angle. This is associated with an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye because the eye’s drainage system becomes inefficient over time. It may also be due to poor perfusion or blood flow to the optic nerve. It develops slowly and usually manifests only when there is significant peripheral or side vision loss. If untreated, it can lead to blindness.

•    Angle closure. This type of glaucoma may be chronic with gradual progression or acute which occurs abruptly due to rapid increase in eye pressure when the drainage angle in the eye formed by the iris and the cornea closes or becomes blocked. It is usually accompanied by severe eye pain, eye redness, blurred vision, nausea and seeing colored rings around lights. This should be treated immediately as it can cause severe vision loss as quickly as the day of its onset. People with narrow drainage angle are prone to suffer from this condition.

•    Secondary. This is caused by an injury, eye disease, medications, medical conditions, eye surgery and other eye abnormalities.

•    Normal-tension. Eye pressure is within normal range but damage in the optic nerve still occurs. It may be caused by an abnormally sensitive optic nerve or by reduced blood supply to the optic nerve due to a condition like atherosclerosis or the hardening of the arteries.

Treatment

Currently, glaucoma cannot be prevented. Fortunately, early diagnosis and treatment can control this condition. Note, however, that lost vision due to this problem cannot be restored. Here are some possible treatments:

•    Medications like prescription eye drops to reduce elevated intra-ocular pressure.

•    Laser can be used to burn openings in the drainage system of the eye called the trabecular meshwork.  This is a particularly useful treatment when patients find it impossible to be compliant with their eye drops.  Unfortunately 50% of cases fail in around 5 years but it does give a window of opportunity for the treating eye doctor to educate around the importance of compliance.

•    Surgery to lower pressure inside the eye if medication is not sufficient. It may be done by inserting a drainage valve, making a drainage flap in the eye or destroying the tissue that creates fluid in the eye. This is usually left as a last resort.

There is no permanent cure for this condition so you need to have maintenance treatment. Make sure to act promptly as early detection and treatment and continuous monitoring are essential to address glaucoma.

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