Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, second only to cataracts, and has been known to affect up to 3 million Americans and many more who go undiagnosed. Glaucoma is caused by an increase in fluid in the eye, which becomes blocked and puts pressure on the optic nerve. The result is pain, blurred or hazy vision, and sometimes headaches. However, many Americans with glaucoma experience no symptoms at all.
Depending on your family history, some people are more at risk for glaucoma than others. Those with a history of an irregular heart rhythm, those over the age of 60, and those with a family history of glaucoma are more likely to suffer from glaucoma. However, simply because you aren’t considered at risk doesn’t mean that glaucoma can’t affect you.
There are three main types of glaucoma. These types include:
Normal-tension glaucoma, also known as low-tension glaucoma, is considered one of the more unique types of glaucoma. Patients with this type have a normal eye pressure but still experience vision loss and optic nerve damage.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma and occurs when clogs form in the eye’s draining canals. Because the clogs develop so slowly, patients rarely experience symptoms, which makes it that much more difficult to diagnose. However, possible symptoms include loss of peripheral vision, increased eye pressure, and tunnel vision in the more advanced stages of glaucoma.
Angle-closure glaucoma, also known as acute or narrow-angle glaucoma, is caused by eye pressure rapidly increasing. Those with this type may experience their pupils dilating too quickly, which can cause the iris to cover the draining canals of the eye. This creates rapid pressure buildup in the eye and may cause irreversible damage if left untreated.
Fortunately, once glaucoma is detected, it can be treated immediately to help prevent a progression of the disease and any further eye damage. However, because damage already caused by glaucoma can’t be reversed, early detection is key. Therefore, it’s essential to receive regular check-ups from your eye doctor.
Common treatments for glaucoma include:
Medicine is the most common treatment for glaucoma when it’s caught in the early stages. Types of medicine used for treatment include eyedrops and pills, which help to lower the eye pressure to allow the fluid to drain.
A type of laser eye surgery, laser trabeculoplasty allows for the fluid to be drained from your eye to help alleviate pressure.
During conventional eye surgery, also known as trabeculectomy, an eye surgeon will remove a small piece of tissue from the eye to create a channel allowing for fluid to drain.
In the U.S. alone, 9% to 12% of all glaucoma cases lead to blindness. However, with early detection, glaucoma can be treatable and eye damage and vision can be preserved. Talk to an eye doctor today about your risk for glaucoma and how you can maintain your vision.
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