What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease involving progressive damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve transmits visual information to the brain, and damage to this nerve as a result of glaucoma leads to gradual vision loss.
What causes Glaucoma?
As a normal process, the eye is constantly producing fluid inside its walls. When the fluid does not drain properly or too much fluid is produced, pressure builds up in the eye and around the optic nerve. This pressure causes progressive damage to the nerve which affects its ability to send signals to the brain, thus affecting the quality of images that the person sees. Typically the peripheral vision is affected first and, as the disease progresses, central vision loss and even blindness may follow. Doctors are unsure of what exactly triggers glaucoma, though genetic and environmental factors are shown to play a role.
Damage to the optic nerve can also occur when the eye pressure is normal. This is called normal pressure (or normal tension) glaucoma, and at this point the exact cause is also unknown.
Other factors that can cause pressure on the optic nerve are injury, infection or tumors in or around the eye.
Who is at risk for Glaucoma?
Glaucoma can form in anyone, at any age although it is most commonly diagnosed in people over the age of 40. Some cases are hereditary, though genetics do not always play a role. Patients with diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or a history of eye injuries have an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?
The most common form of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma and generally develops gradually and painlessly. In other cases, symptoms appear suddenly and the person may experience red eyes, eye pain, blurred vision, nausea and haloes around lights. This is called acute angle-closure glaucoma.
How is Glaucoma treated?
Diagnosed in earlier stages, glaucoma can be treated with daily medicated eye drops and/or laser treatment to prevent further vision loss. It’s important to see your optometrist for regular screening including a comprehensive eye exam to asses the presence of or risk for glaucoma. Once vision is lost it can not be restored and left untreated, some degree of permanent vision loss is likely to occur.