Glaucoma is a medical condition that affects the eyes. When people have glaucoma, they have damage to their optic nerve.
A healthy optic nerve is one of the most important things you need to see properly. While there are many causes of glaucoma, in many instances the damage takes place because there is an abnormally high pressure in one or more of your eyes. Glaucoma is a serious condition that needs a lot of care. People over sixty are more likely to be affected. At the same time, it is crucial to remember that the condition can happen at any age. That is why it is imperative to have your eyes checked for it on a periodic basis. A doctor can identify if you are at risk. The doctor can also come up with a treatment plan. That can reduce any existing damage and help avoid any further damage to your eyes in the future.
Types of Glaucoma
While glaucoma is a specific medical condition, there are differing types. Some of these include:
- Open-Angle Glaucoma is considered the most common type of glaucoma. Accounting for about ninety percent of all cases, this kind happens slowly over time. Your eye's drainage canals get clogged leading to increased pressure in your eyes. This is a chronic condition that leaves an open angle between your eye's iris and cornea. Millions of Americans live with this condition.
- Angle-Closure Glaucoma - Angle-Closure Glaucoma is also caused by clogged drainage canals. Unlike open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma happens suddenly and has noticeable symptoms. This is a medical emergency that needs immediate attention.
While these are two of the most common types of glaucoma, there are other types that you should know about. For example, Normal-Tension Glaucoma can happen when a person has normal eye pressure but still has a damaged optic nerve. Experts don't know why the nerve is damaged. Congenital Glaucoma happens in babies when the eye's drainage canals are not formed properly. This can be corrected by surgery and other medical procedures early in a baby's life.
Signs and Symptoms
One of the most frustrating aspects of glaucoma is that there are often no signs or symptoms. However, there can be certain indications this might be a problem and the patient needs to see a doctor.
Side or peripheral loss is a common issue. In many cases, the loss can be quite subtle. However, over time people may realize they are having a hard time seeing out of the sides of their eyes. Keep in mind that once such changes are noticed, it often means the condition is quite advanced. It may not be fully possible to help the patient. That's why regular eye exams are a must for everyone of every age.
In acute angle-closure, symptoms may happen quickly. You might feel what feels like a migraine. Patients can also have sudden eye pain, rainbow-colored circles around bright lights or vomiting. Vision loss that happens without any warning is also an indication you might have a form of glaucoma. Blurred vision in one or both eyes or hazy vision in either eye can also be a symptom of glaucoma. These are the kinds of vision changes that can indicate you need to see a doctor immediately.
Unfortunately, not all damage caused by glaucoma can be reversed. In general, however, it is possible to reduce the pressure in your eyes. Treatment options include eye drops, oral medications and surgery.
Drops can help by reducing how much fluid your eyes make. Many types of drops are available. They can have side effects ranging from reddened eyes to dry mouth and headaches. Should the eye drops not work effectively, your doctor may add an oral medication. These meds can also cause side effects such as tingling in your fingers and toes and an upset stomach. For some patients, surgery may be fully necessary to ward off the damage caused by this condition. Options like laser surgery can act on your existing eye canals and clear out the damage the glaucoma is causing. A doctor can help you cope with this medical condition and preserve your existing eyesight.