Glaucoma, also known as the “silent thief of sight,” is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. In honor of National Glaucoma Awareness Month, Eye Care Professionals encourages our patients to learn about the symptoms of glaucoma and preventative measures that can be taken.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. There are two major glaucoma subtypes: primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. People with this condition have eyes that do not properly drain fluid, resulting in a gradually build-up of eye pressure. This eye pressure ultimately damages the optic nerve.
Angle-closure glaucoma, also known as closed-angle glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma, occurs when eye pressure rises very quickly due to a drainage blockage in the eye. An acute attack of angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately.
Other types of glaucoma include:
- Secondary glaucoma
- Pigmentary glaucoma
- Congenital glaucoma
- Normal-tension glaucoma
- Traumatic glaucoma
- Pseudoexfoliative glaucoma
- Neurovascular glaucoma
- Irido corneal endothelial syndrome
- Uveitic glaucoma
All forms of glaucoma can potentially lead to vision loss and blindness.
What are symptoms of primary open-angle glaucoma?
Primary open-angle glaucoma is completely painless and has no early symptoms. If the disorder remains untreated, patients will gradually notice blind spots developing in their peripheral vision. With time, patients may lose their vision entirely.
Unfortunately, any vision loss that results from glaucoma is permanent. For this reason, patients should receive regular comprehensive eye examinations, particularly those who are at-risk of developing glaucoma.
What are the symptoms of acute-closure glaucoma?
Signs of an acute attack of acute-closure glaucoma include:
- Severe eye pain
- Blurry vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Halos around lights
These symptoms may be present in one or both eyes.
Once again, acute-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency and must be treated immediately to avoid blindness.
Who is at-risk for developing glaucoma?
There are a number of risk factors that can increase your odds of developing glaucoma.
Risk factors include:
- High eye pressure (ocular hypertension)
- Age (people over 40)
- Race (African or Hispanic heritage)
- Family history of glaucoma
- History of eye injury
- Nearsightedness or farsightedness
- Thin corneas
- Thick optic nerves
- Diabetes, migraines, or another serious medical condition
Keep in mind, however, that glaucoma can develop in anyone regardless of whether they meet any of these risk factors. It’s important to regularly monitor your eye health through regular comprehensive eye examinations and glaucoma awareness.
How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be managed.
Medication. Most people are able to control their glaucoma with daily eye drop medication. These specialized eye drops lower eye pressure, reducing the risk of optic nerve damage.
Surgery. There are two main types of surgery that can treat glaucoma: laser trabeculoplasty and laser iridotomy. Laser trabeculoplasty is used to treat people with open-angle glaucoma, whereas laser iridotomy treats people with angle-closure glaucoma. Both surgeries involve using lasers to reshape specific parts of the eye, providing symptom relief.
Comprehensive eye exams are vital!
Glaucoma has no early symptoms. Worst of all, by the time symptoms emerge, it’s already too late. By receiving regular comprehensive eye examinations, you can catch the disorder early. Glaucoma awareness can potentially save your vision.