Glaucoma 101

14225590 - glaucoma

You wear sunscreen to avoid skin cancer and avoid secondhand smoke to prevent lung disease, but what do you do to protect your eyes from blindness? Glaucoma is actually the second leading cause of blindness, yet most people don’t realize the severity of the condition or how it can impact vision.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a condition that damages your eye’s optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting images to the brain. When the optic nerve can’t do its job, your vision becomes compromised. Left untreated, glaucoma will cause blindness in only a few years.

What Causes Glaucoma?

This vision condition is caused by increased pressure in the eye. If eye fluid doesn’t circulate well in the front of the eye, pressure builds up instead of flowing out. Though doctors have yet to establish the exact cause of this pressure, they do know that it is an inherited problem passed from parents to children. Chances are, if one eye has glaucoma, the other will as well.

What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is most common in adults over the age of 40, though cases have been seen in young adults and even children. Those of African American and Hispanic descent tend to be more prone to glaucoma, and the same goes for people with diabetes. Glaucoma is tricky because it does not present many obvious symptoms until it’s already become a serious problem. Most people first notice loss of peripheral vision, and some with intense eye pressure may suffer from eye pain, headaches, and the appearance of halos around lights.

How Can Glaucoma Be Diagnosed and Treated?

Only a comprehensive vision test with dilated pupils can diagnose glaucoma. Your eye doctor will focus on the optic nerve and perform a check for eye pressure and loss of side vision. The exam is simple, quick, and completely painless.

Once glaucoma has been diagnosed, it can be treated with eye drops, laser surgery, or microsurgery. Eye drops can reduce the formation of fluid in the front of the eye or even increase its outflow to relieve pressure. Laser surgery, meanwhile, increases outflow to eliminate the problem. Microsurgery has a similar effect but is done by creating a new channel to drain the fluid.