Glaucoma is an umbrella term used to describe a group of complex eye diseases that cause optic nerve damage. If left untreated, it can lead to vision loss, including blindness. The damage that glaucoma causes is both irreversible and progressive. It is the second leading cause of blindness but with early detection and treatment, the damage from glaucoma can be arrested and serious vision loss can be prevented.
TYPES OF GLAUCOMA
There are several types of glaucoma. The most common is primary open-angle glaucoma, which affects nearly three million people in the United States alone. Acute glaucoma, or angle-closure glaucoma, is not nearly as common. Both of these forms are caused by rising pressure in the eye due to drainage canals in the eye becoming clogged. Normal-tension glaucoma is yet another type of the eye disease and occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve despite the pressure in the eye remaining rather low. There are additional types of glaucoma that are often variations of angle-closure and open-angle. They can affect both eyes or just one.
People with open-angle glaucoma typically do not experience any noticeable symptoms to warn them of the disease. The initial changes to vision usually occur in the peripheral vision. Sharpness and visual acuity do not begin to deteriorate until the disease is well advanced.
Those with acute-closure glaucoma have more pronounced symptoms including blurred or hazy vision. They may see rainbow colored rings around bright lights and experience severe head and eye pain that is accompanied by nausea and vomiting. They may also experience sudden loss of sight.
HOW GLAUCOMA IS DIAGNOSED
Even though some forms of glaucoma have few noticeable symptoms, it can be detected quite early through complete eye exams performed regularly:
- Under 40 years of age – every 2 to 4 years
- Age 40 through 54 – every 1 to 3 years
- Age 55 through 64 – every 1 to 2 years
- Age 65 and older – every 6 to 12 months
There are five points that are included in a glaucoma exam:
- the pressure of the inner eye
- the color and shape of the optic nerve
- the complete field of vision
- the eye’s angle at the point where the cornea meets the iris
- the thickness of the cornea
TREATMENT FOR GLAUCOMA
While the damage made to the eye by glaucoma is irreversible, the disease can be slowed or even stopped from incurring further damage. There are several glaucoma treatments available including medication such as eye drops, laser surgery to help with fluid drainage in the eye so that eye pressure is reduced, and even drainage implants. These treatments can help with eye pressure and with the advancement of glaucoma but they cannot restore vision that has been lost due to the disease. Preventative measure are the best form of protection against the consequences of glaucoma.
RISK FACTORS FOR GLAUCOMA
While it is possible for anyone to get glaucoma, there are certain groups that are considered high risk. These groups include:
- African Americans
- Adults over 60 years of age
- People with family members who have glaucoma
- Hispanics over the age of 60
- People who use steroids
- People who have sustained an injury to the eye
- People who are nearsighted (myopia)
- People with hypertension
- People whose central corneal thickness is less than .5 mm
Regular and complete eye exams can detect glaucoma early, allowing you to get treatment before the disease advances. Call Florida Eye Specialists today to schedule an eye exam appointment at one of our 5 locations around Jacksonville. Early detection of glaucoma is your best defense.