Glaucoma is a disease that someone may have, but not know until their vision is severely affected. Here is what to know about glaucoma, risk factors, symptoms, and treatments.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition that can lead to vision loss and blindness if left untreated. Vision loss due to glaucoma is irreversible, making early detection and early treatment very important.
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What are the types of glaucoma?
There are several forms of glaucoma depending on the structure of the eye or how the disease works.
Chronic Open Angle Glaucoma
- Most common in the adult American population.
- Typically starts when patients are in their 40s.
- Occurs due to an increase in pressure within your eye.
- Causes damage to the retina (the light-sensitive layer of the eye) and the optic nerve (the nerve that connects the eye to the brain).
Normal Pressure Glaucoma
- Similar to Open Angle Glaucoma, but the pressure within your eye is within the normal range.
Other Types of Glaucoma
- Close-Angle Glaucoma
- Secondary Glaucoma
- Congenital Glaucoma (can be present at birth)
What causes glaucoma?
For the common types of glaucoma, the primary cause is a problem with the drainage of the inner-eye fluid leading to pressure buildup inside the eye. Medications such as steroids can lead to increased eye pressure. Health conditions such as diabetes and other factors can also increase the risks for glaucoma.
What are the signs and symptoms of glaucoma?
For common types of glaucoma, including chronic open-angle glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma, there are no warning signs during early stages of the disease. Patients will typically not complain of redness or pain in their eye. It is important to pay attention to risk factors for glaucoma and to get regular eye exams in order to catch these types early.
In other forms of the disease, there may be a sudden increase in eye pressure, complaints of eye pain, redness, light sensitivity, and possibly loss of vision.
Am I at risk for glaucoma?
The most important risk factor for glaucoma is family history.
“Individuals who know they have a family member with glaucoma should be especially vigilant and should have routine eye exams for early detection and treatment if needed” said Nicolas Hamouche, MD, ophthalmologist at McFarland Clinic Eye Center.
African Americans and people who suffer from diabetes, hypertension, migraines or severe nearsightedness are also at a higher risk for glaucoma.
How do you treat glaucoma?
There are several ways to treat glaucoma and prevent further vision loss. Dr. Hamouche said he typically starts with a laser treatment or eyedrops.
“If these are not enough we can consider further laser treatment, surgical intervention or a combination of all,” he said.
New surgical techniques known as Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) have been developed recently. MIGS can be performed in earlier stages of the disease without the risk of traditional glaucoma surgery (trabeculectomy).
How do you prevent glaucoma?
There is no method to prevent the development of glaucoma. Dr. Hamouche said he recommends getting routine eye exams for early detection. These exams can give you the opportunity for early treatment in order to avoid vision loss and blindness.