What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve. It is typically linked to a high buildup of pressure from the fluid inside the eye. Think of a water balloon that is over-inflated. Glaucoma is often referred to as the “sneak thief” of sight because it can develop over years with no symptoms. Typically, any vision loss that eventually occurs is untreatable. The only way to catch glaucoma before you become symptomatic is to have a comprehensive eye exam from your eye doctor on an annual basis.
Two Major Types of Glaucoma
There are two different classifications of glaucoma: open angle glaucoma and closed angle glaucoma. The “angle” is in reference to the valve inside of the eye that helps to drain fluid and regulate a normal pressure. Your eye is constantly producing new fluid and draining old fluid. The production and drainage have to work in perfect harmony to keep a healthy pressure. If there is too much fluid produced or if not enough is drained out, the pressure will rise and damage the optic nerve inside the eye.
There are other, less common, forms of glaucoma that also exist. They can be related to systemic diseases, medications, genetic abnormalities, or traumatic injuries to the eye.
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. The exact cause of the damage is unknown, but popular theories include elevated intraocular pressure and inadequate blood supply to the nerve.
Risk Factors for Glaucoma
Anyone can develop glaucoma. However, studies have shown that there are certain people who at a higher risk.
- Age – Anyone over 60 is most at risk, and this risk increases every year as you age.
- Race – Glaucoma is about three times more likely to affect African Americans and Hispanics/Latinos than non-Hispanic Caucasians.
- Systemic Medical Conditions – Conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease can increase your risk.
- Corticosteroid Use – Long term use of steroid drops/creams and inhaled or systemic steroids (prednisone, hydrocortisone, etc) increase your risk.
- Family History of Glaucoma
- Previous Eye Injuries
- Severe Nearsightedness
Diagnosis and Management of Glaucoma
The only way to catch glaucoma before it begins to cause visual symptoms is to have an annual exam from your eye doctor. During The Eye Doctors’ signature V-Eye-P Triple Check exam, our technicians will take digital images of the inside of your eye, including your optic nerve. We will measure the pressure inside your eyes as well. This information, along with your family history and risk factors, can help our optometrists detect any early signs of glaucoma.
If glaucoma is detected in the early stages, it is much easier to treat and manage. The Eye Doctors glaucoma management programs can prevent it from progressing and causing visual impairments. In the unfortunate case that you are diagnosed with glaucoma, the type of treatment recommended by your optometrist depends on the severity and type of glaucoma.
If you have any questions about glaucoma or would like a comprehensive eye exam to screen for glaucoma, please schedule an appointment today!