When it comes to eye diseases, one that you might hear about often is glaucoma, which is referred to as the silent thief of sight. But what is it, exactly, and what are the causes and symptoms of this condition? We’ve got you covered with info below that can help clear up some of the frequently asked questions about glaucoma.
It might sound like a single disease, but glaucoma is actually a group of conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve of the eye.
When glaucoma develops, it can happen in one or both of the eyes. And vision loss may occur if it isn’t caught and treated in time. In fact, the scary thing about glaucoma is that it’s a leading cause of blindness in individuals who are over 60 years of age, even though it can affect people of all ages.
Often, high pressure inside the eye is what damages the optic nerve. But the tricky thing about glaucoma is that it can occur when eye pressure is normal too!
Wait, what’s this about pressure inside your eyes? Basically, there’s fluid in the front part of the eye. Because it’s produced all the time, it needs to drain properly through what’s known as the drainage angle in order to maintain the right amount of pressure in the eye. If a problem develops and the fluid doesn’t drain like it should, eye pressure goes up, and the risk of glaucoma goes up too. Also, the pressure could go up slowly or quickly.
In terms of what can cause glaucoma, the list includes:
There are several types of glaucoma. Here are three of the main types, along with some of their symptoms:
Open-angle glaucoma – This develops when the eye fails to drain the fluid in it properly. As a result, pressure starts to increase, and the optic nerve is damaged. This is a type of glaucoma that likely won’t cause any problems with your vision at the beginning, so you may not know there’s a problem unless you see a doctor and get a diagnosis during a routine exam. Once it gets worse, though, you may start to notice changes in your vision, such as blind spots in your peripheral vision.
Angle-closure glaucoma - This is also known as narrow-angle or closed-angle glaucoma. Put simply, the iris of the eye blocks the drainage angle, and that causes an increase in pressure. This type of glaucoma may develop slowly, so you might not notice any signs until it’s advanced. Or, it can cause the pressure to become elevated quickly, causing an acute attack that leads to symptoms like severe eye pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, blurry vision, halos or rainbows surrounding lights, and redness in the eye. An acute attack is an emergency that, if not treated right away, might cause blindness.
Normal-tension glaucoma - This is also known as normal-pressure or low-tension glaucoma. The pressure in the eye will be within the normal range, yet optic nerve damage will occur. This type of glaucoma might be caused by a problem with optic nerve itself, or by blood flow issues that lead to a reduction in blood flow to the optic nerve. Symptoms might include changes in your vision.
The really unnerving thing about glaucoma: you might not even know that you have it because the changes in your vision may occur slowly over time.
By the time you realize that something is off with your vision, it might be too late, and any vision that you lost might be gone for good. So the goal is to catch it as early on as possible, receive treatment, and hopefully prevent, or at least slow, future vision loss.
How can you be sure you can tackle glaucoma before it has reached an advanced stage? It’s simple: see an eye doctor on a regular basis, such as once a year! He or she will be able to check your vision and keep track of changes as you get older. In addition to that, an eye care professional can use tools to measure eye pressure and look for other signs to see if glaucoma is present. And, if it is, your doctor can recommend treatment options.
Still have questions about glaucoma and whether or not you are at risk? Find an eye doctor you can trust, and enroll in a high-quality insurance like Spirit so you can save money when it comes to keeping your vision sharp!