Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world, affecting approximately 2% of the population over age 40. Glaucoma usually begins without any symptoms or obvious loss of vision. Glaucoma, often called the “silent thief of sight,” can destroy sight without causing any pain or signs until it is too late. Thus, early detection is key in preventing loss of sight.
CAUSES & RISKS
Glaucoma by definition is a disease of the optic nerve, the vital nerve bundle that sends all visual information to your brain. It is usually caused by high eye pressure however it can be caused by low or normal eye pressure.
Factors that increase a person’s risk include:
ELEVATED EYE PRESSURE – the higher the eye pressure the higher the risk
INCREASING AGE – the older you get the higher the risk, thus the importance of eye exams at least every two years after the age of 40
RACE – African Americans have an eight times higher likelihood of developing glaucoma than Caucasians
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE – even if well controlled
FAMILY HISTORY OF GLAUCOMA – Siblings of glaucoma patients have a five-fold increase in risk for developing glaucoma
DIABETES – due to circulation problems
LONG TERM STEROID TREATMENT
INJURY/TRAUMA TO THE EYE
Open angle is the most frequently diagnosed type of glaucoma in the US. This type of glaucoma occurs because two much fluid in the eye is being produced or too little fluid is being drained. Treatment generally involves starting someone on eye drops and or combination of laser therapy.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma is an emergency and needs to be treated immediately. This occurs when fluid cannot escape because the drain in the eye is closed. This causes pressure to build up suddenly. This most of the time causes a tremendous amount of pain. Angle closure generally occurs in farsighted eyes and in patients between the ages of 45-60 years. Treatment generally involves eye drops and immediate laser treatment.
Glaucoma cannot be prevented, however, if diagnosed and treated early, it can usually be controlled. Medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. Since vision cannot be restored, it’s of the upmost importance to detect and treat as soon as possible.