Glaucoma is a health problem where the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly builds up and doesn’t drain properly. Instead, the fluid collects and causes damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers that connects the retina with the brain. This damage leads to loss of eyesight.
There are many different types of glaucoma:
The causes of glaucoma are unknown. Even people with normal fluid pressure inside the eyes can lose their eyesight from glaucoma.
Anyone can develop glaucoma. However, some people are at higher risk than others. The risk factors for glaucoma are:
Anyone in these risk groups should get an eye exam with dilated pupils every two years.
Most people who have glaucoma do not notice any symptoms until they start to lose some of their eyesight. As optic nerve fibers are damaged by glaucoma, small blind spots may begin to develop. They usually happen on the side or in their peripheral vision. Many people do not notice the blind spots until significant optic nerve damage has already happened. If the entire nerve is destroyed, the person becomes blind.
One type of glaucoma, called acute angle-closure glaucoma, does produce noticeable symptoms. This is because there is a quick buildup of pressure in the eye. These are the most common symptoms of this type of glaucoma. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma may look like other eye problems. Get medical attention right away if you notice symptoms in order to prevent blindness.
Your eye healthcare provider may do the following tests to diagnose glaucoma. He or will take your complete medical history and examine your eyes. You may also have the following tests:
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
The symptoms of glaucoma sometimes look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
While glaucoma can’t be cured, early treatment can often control it. Treatment may include:
In some cases, a single surgery isn’t enough to slow down the progress the glaucoma. In those cases, repeat surgery and/or continued treatment with medicines may be necessary.
Without treatment, glaucoma can cause permanent blindness.
To help prevent your glaucoma from getting worse, it’s important to follow your healthcare provider’s advice. If you have already lost some of your eyesight, ask your healthcare provider for information on services for people with low vision. There are devices that may help you with your everyday task.