What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
A leading — but preventable — cause of blindness, glaucoma can be treated effectively if it’s detected early enough.
Glaucoma is a group of related conditions that can cause irreversible eye damage. With more than three million Americans living with the condition, it’s clear that glaucoma poses a real risk to patients across demographics and income levels. That said, it’s particularly important for older adults to understand the condition, as Americans over the age of 40 account for roughly 90 percent of the country’s glaucoma patients.
Early detection and treatment for glaucoma early is key. If a patient fails to get the right kind of attention from a qualified eye care specialist, glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness. To that end, learning more about the causes of glaucoma and the symptoms associated with the condition can help patients know when to seek out professional care — and when to begin exploring the best treatment options for their situation.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the result of optic nerve damage. Blind spots develop in your visual field as the nerve deteriorates. Nerve damage happens as a result of increased eye pressure due to a fluid buildup (aqueous humor) throughout the inside of your eye. Fluid usually drains out through a tissue called a trabecular meshwork, located around the base of the cornea. If fluid drainage doesn’t work properly or is overproduced, it causes increased pressure and fluid can’t flow out at a normal rate.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma occurs when there is damage to the eye’s optic nerve, the part of the eye that links essential ocular functions to the brain. While this holds true across the various kinds of glaucoma, each type includes different factors that can lead to this damage.
The most widely acknowledged risk factor is high pressure inside the eye. This can spike if the eye begins leaking fluid, putting additional pressure on the optic nerve. Additionally, thin corneas, diabetes, high blood pressure, irregularities with the optic nerve, and a family history of the disease can all contribute to a patient’s risk of developing glaucoma.
Further, there are certain patient populations that face a higher risk of glaucoma. For example, African Americans are three to four times more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma than Caucasians, and the condition can develop especially quickly for Hispanics over the age of 65.
What Are the Most Common Symptoms?
Because the damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible, it’s important for patients to know how to spot the symptoms of the disease as early as possible. This is obviously easier said than done, and it’s particularly daunting for patients suffering from one of the types of glaucoma that sets in very slowly, making it difficult to spot warning signs.
For instance, open-angle glaucoma — the most prevalent variant in the United States — can manifest virtually no noticeable symptoms until patients begin to experience actual vision loss. This means that it’s essential to speak to an eye care specialist if you feel that you’re losing your peripheral vision (side vision), or if you notice any other changes to your field of vision.
On the other hand, the symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma are much more immediate. They range from blurred vision and halos around lights to pain, nausea, and vomiting. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s urgent that you seek emergency medical attention as soon as possible.
What Treatment Is Available?
If you’re dealing with glaucoma, there are a range of treatment options available to mitigate its effects. Prescription eye drops can help moderate intraocular pressure, as can several supplementary oral medications. If a more aggressive course of treatment is needed, laser surgery can be used to drain fluid from the eye to help reduce fluid pressure.
However, the best way to keep a handle on glaucoma is to get an annual eye exam. That way, your eye care specialist will be able to watch out for any changes in your eyes and ask you about any differences in your field of vision on a regular basis.
Ultimately, controlling glaucoma depends on getting attention from trained professionals. At the Kleiman Evangelista Eye Centers of Texas, our team of experienced eye care specialists is ready to help. If you’d like to get the conversation started about your eye health generally or glaucoma specifically, schedule a consultation today.
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