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Glaucoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Serious eye disease that damages the optic nerve

Glaucoma is a serious condition that affects the eyes by damaging the optic nerve. It's a disease that becomes worse with time, and it's also associated with the build-up of pressure within the eyes. This increase in pressure, which is referred to as intraocular pressure, could damage the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. And if this damage continues, a person could end up losing their vision permanently within just a few years. This is why it's imperative to get the right treatment as soon as possible.

The all-seeing human eye
The human eye is responsible for most of the input we receive about the world around us. Preventing eye disease is essential to being self-dependent.

To learn more about this condition, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment options, continue reading.

Different Types of Glaucoma

There are actually several different forms of glaucoma that can affect the eyes. Most of them are classified as either angle-closure (closed angle) or open-angle.

Young men, too, can suffer from glaucoma
Pigmentary glaucoma eye diseases can especially affect younger men
Here are different types of glaucoma:
  • Open angle glaucoma – This is the most common type, due to decreased blood flow in the eye, which happens in later years.
  • Secondary open angle glaucoma – This type of glaucoma could result from an eye injury, even if it happened many years earlier.
  • Congenital glaucoma – A rare, inherited type of open angle glaucoma.
  • Pigmentary glaucoma – This type is common in younger men, caused by pigment detaching from the iris.
  • Exfoliative glaucoma – Seems to be caused by deposits of flaky material that build up on the eye lense.
  • Angle closure glaucoma – It may be acute or chronic, extremely common in Asia, but not so much in the Western world.

Glaucoma disease typically affects both eyes, but it can also progress more quickly in one of the eyes but not the other.

The Causes of Glaucoma

Even though glaucoma is thought to be inherited most of the time, it might not even appear or cause any problems until much later in a person's life. The condition occurs most often in adults that are over the age of 40. However, it could also be found in infants, children, and young adults. African-Americans are also more susceptible, as the condition occurs at an earlier age and more frequently among them, and they also experience greater loss of vision.

The risk of glaucoma increases after 40
Persons of Japanese descent belong to the groups that are at an increased risk of glaucoma
types of eye diseases.  (Image by Pixabay.com)

Those who are of Russian, Hispanic, Scandinavian, Inuit, Japanese, and Irish descent are also at an increased risk of getting glaucoma at some point in their lives; though, again, being over 40 is a leading factor. If you have a family history of the disease, you have diabetes or poor vision, or you're taking certain steroid prescriptions, you can also be at an increased risk. And, finally, trauma to one or both eyes can also increase the risk of getting glaucoma.

If the condition is caused by inflammation, steroid use, or prior injury, it will likely affect only one eye rather than both.

The Symptoms of Glaucoma

Unfortunately, many people who have glaucoma may not even know because there could be no symptoms associated with it. Other times, there could just a few symptoms that you may not recognize, at least at first, as being associated with glaucoma.

The first symptom that you should look out for is a loss of the peripheral vision of one or both eyes. Again, this symptom may go unnoticed until the disease has progressed quite a bit. Therefore, detecting the disease as early as possible is imperative.

Human eye's peripheral vision
The maximum vision field that the healthy human eye can see is called the peripheral vision. Glaucoma disease causes narrowing of this vision field, tunnel vision, and eventually a complete loss of sight.
("Peripheral vision" by Zyxwv99 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wiki Commons)

In the event that intraocular pressure rises to severe levels, which can occasionally happen with glaucoma, you may experience sudden headaches, eye pain, the appearance of halos surrounding lights, or blurred vision.

The following symptoms warrant immediate medical attention:

  • Vision loss
  • Redness in the eye(s)
  • Hazy looking eye(s)
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Pain within the eye(s)
  • Noticing halos around lights
  • An experience of tunnel vision

The Treatment for Glaucoma

Protect your eyes early on
Preserve your good eye sight from early years, to avoid eye disease later on
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, your doctor may prescribe eye drops for this condition. These will serve to reduce fluid formation in the front of your eye, or they will end up increasing its outflow. Just be sure to discuss side effects with your doctor, as well as any other conditions you suffer with and any medications or supplements that you take.

Another option is laser surgery, which can work on slightly increasing the outflow of fluid from your eye if you have open-angle glaucoma. This surgery can also eliminate fluid blockage if you have angle-closure glaucoma. There are various types of laser surgery for this condition, and your doctor will determine which is best for you.

Finally, microsurgery, or more specifically, a trabeculectomy, is an operation that can also be used to drain fluid from the eye and reduce intraocular pressure that leads to glaucoma. Sometimes, however, this surgery fails and may need to be redone. Other patients might need a glaucoma implant.

Now that you know a bit more about this serious eye condition, you can take active steps to keep your eyes as healthy as possible. Get a regular eye exam from a trusted eye doctor, such as an experienced eye specialist in Colorado Springs, and make sure that you get checked annually especially if you're over 40 years of age. The key is recognizing symptoms as soon as possible and receiving treatment right away to preserve your eyesight.

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