What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an umbrella term under which many types of eye disease shelter under. All of these different diseases do the same thing. They make the optic nerve malfunction in some way so that many symptoms, including blindness result. The optic nerve connects the retina to the brain. Although the retina is where humans process images they do not see anything unless the brain in involved. This is why the optic nerve is so important.

Most glaucomas are caused by too much pressure in the fluid part of the eyes. This can be caused by high blood pressure but the exact cause of any type of glaucoma is unknown. African Americans are most prone to developing glaucoma.

What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

Some types of glaucoma cause no symptoms noticeable to the patient but can be detected through eye tests. This is one good reason why getting a yearly eye exam is important.

Symptoms include

Other types of glaucoma cause noticeable symptoms such as blurry vision, gradual loss of peripheral vision, severe headache, nausea and seeing auras or mild visual hallucinations similar to a migraine attack.

A severe headache or eye ache with nausea with blurred vision or reddening of the eye is a medical emergency which if left untreated will cause blindness in the painful eye.

Glaucoma Causes

This common eye disease can be caused by many factors, depending on the type of glaucoma a patient develops. In general, it is caused when the clear fluid in the front part of the eye is blocked from leaving the eye. When this fluid is blocked, it continues to build up inside the eye and will build pressure as it does so. Open-angle glaucoma has a genetic component and tends to develop in multiple people in the same family. Those who have a family member with this eye disease are more likely to have it. Those who are of African are at an even higher risk. Closed-angle glaucoma happens quickly and may be triggered by certain medications as well as by dilating eye drops. If you had this condition develop in one eye, you are at an increased risk for it developing in the other eye.

Secondary glaucoma is caused by a specific trigger that creates the fluid block. This is often a medication or an eye injury. Drugs like corticosteroids can cause it, and it can be caused by diabetes. Uveitis, an eye infection, can cause thus glaucoma type, as can other eye diseases. Many different types of injuries to the eye can also result in this condition. Congenital glaucoma is an eye condition that babies are born with. It runs in families and is created by the abnormal development of the baby’s eyes.

How is Glaucoma Treated?

There currently is no cure for blindness caused by glaucoma. However, blindness can be prevented provided glaucoma is caught in the early stages.

Treatment includes

Medications for glaucoma such as alpha agonists, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, prostaglandin analogs and beta blockers come in eye drops or pill forms. If these do not help, more aggressive treatments like laser surgery to remove excess fluid in the eyes can be done.

Laser surgery is usually not good enough to help those with congenital glaucoma or glaucoma that is inherited from a child’s parents. Conventional surgery is needed.

Glaucoma Prevention

In some cases, it is not possible to prevent glaucoma from developing. When there is a strong genetic link, this is especially true. For some cases of this condition, the long-term effects of this disease can be prevented. To catch it early, see an ophthalmologist or another eye-care professional once a year for eye care. Get an eye exam and a screening for glaucoma at each visit. If you are in a high-risk group for glaucoma, you may need to be screened more often. Find out your family history and whether anyone in your family has had glaucoma.