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Understanding Glaucoma

Understanding Glaucoma

What is Glaucoma ?

Approximately 2.2 Million Americans have glaucoma, and it is one of the leading causes of blindness. Glaucoma is a broad category of eye diseases in which there is damage to the optic nerve, most often due to high eye pressure, that leads to permanent vision loss. The progression of the disease is usually very gradual and painless. Most cases of glaucoma develop slowly, with a grdual loss of peripheral (or side) vision. It's important to get regular full eye exams to check for any damage. 

What Causes Glaucoma? 

There are several different types of glaucoma and each of them causes damage to the optic nerve in a distinctive way. Within the eye, there is a constant fluid being produced and drained . When this fluid cannot drain adequately, it leasd to buildup of the fluid in the eye and this causes increase in eye pressure and subsequently leads to optic nerve injury and visual field loss. 

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and tends to affect older individuals. This form of glaucoma means that the drain is "open" but not functioning adequately . This leads to slowly progressive increase in eye pressure. 

In angle-closure glaucoma, there is abrupt closure of the drain that leads to rapid increase in eye pressure. When this happens, it can be very painful and requires immediate medical attention and intervention. Symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma include nausea, vomitng, seeing rainbows around lights at night, headaches, intense blurred vision, and sore eyes. 

Then there is normal tension glaucoma in which there is damage to the optic nerve and visual field loss even with a normal eye pressure (IOP levels between 10-21mm Hg.)

Understanding your Risk

There are several risk factors for glaucoma. Family history plays a very strong role. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, the risk of developing primary open-angle glaucoma is up to nine times higher than average, if one of your parents or sibilings has the disease. 

Race also plays a role in your risk for glaucoma. African -Americans, even at a younger age(starting around age 40), are five times more likely to devlop glaucoma than Caucasians. Starting at the age of 60, Mexican-Americans become significantly more at risk as well. Increased age is another major risk factor for glaucoma. A staggering 75% of those who are blind from glaucoma are seniors. It is believed that the aged optic nerve is less able to withstand changes in the eye pressure and thus more likely to become damaged. In addition, the drain of the eye also begins to decrease in function over time. As the outflow pathway becomes less functioning, the eye pressure gradually begins to increase. 

People with diabetes, those who have had an eye injury, or who have taken any form of steriod medication for an extended period of time are also at higher than average risk for developing glaucoma. 

Schedule an appointment with us today, so we can provide you comprehensive eye evaludation for glaucoma and other ocular conditions! 

Author
Nandita Anand M.D

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