Unlike a thief in the night, this silent stalker enters in and gradually steals your sight. The staggering statistic is that only half of those suffering from this disease even know that they have it. One of the leading causes of blindness among older adults, glaucoma is a serious condition with detrimental effects.
In a healthy eye, the iris produces a constant flow of clear fluid called aqueous humor that leaves the eye via a tiny drainage canal in the front of the eye. If any part of this process becomes blocked, pressure increases and causes harm to the optic nerve.
The optic nerve connects to the retina and functions like an electrical cable, sending signals to the brain that are interpreted as the images you see. Damage to the optic nerve typically causes severe if not permanent vision loss. The degree of vision loss relates directly to the precise location and extent of optic nerve damage.
One of the scariest aspects of glaucoma is that you are not often symptomatic in the beginning stages. The disease may go undiagnosed for quite a long time while it gradually steals your sight. The key to preventing blindness from glaucoma is early detection. Once detected, treatment options for glaucoma may include eye drops, surgery, or both.
Causes of Glaucoma
While the exact cause of glaucoma remains unknown, there are certain factors that may elevate your risk for the disease.
- Family history
- Ocular disease
- Other health conditions
Glaucoma can be a congenital defect present at birth. It affects people at any age from newborn to elderly. However, it is more commonly found in people over the age of 60. Those of African American or Hispanic descent as well as people suffering from diabetes are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
Types of Glaucoma
There are various types of glaucoma, each with its own set of symptoms and results.
- Open-angle glaucoma (Most common form)
- Normal-tension glaucoma (Optic nerve damage occurs in the presence of normal intraocular pressure)
- Angle-closure glaucoma (Characterized by an acute attack that is a medical emergency)
- Congenital glaucoma (Present at birth)
- Secondary glaucoma (The result of an underlying eye condition or disease)
- Glaucoma suspect (Will be monitored for glaucoma due to a higher than normal eye pressure or something that’s not quite right regarding the optic nerve or visual field)
Changes in vision may or may not be a sign of optic nerve damage. It is essential to visit your ophthalmologist immediately if you experience either a sudden or gradual change in your vision.