Glaucoma is a serious eye condition where the optic nerve becomes damaged due to an improper balance of pressure inside the eye. With over 1 million nerve fibers making up the optic nerve, the health of this component it is vital for transmitting images to the brain.
Therefore, when poor fluid drainage exists inside the anterior chamber (the space between the cornea and pupil), an excessive buildup of this nourishing fluid surrounds the optic nerve-damaging the function and health of the nerve.
Over 200,000 Americans are affected by glaucoma each year, and it is one of the leading causes of blindness.
Causes of Glaucoma
The stemming cause of pressure buildup and poor fluid drainage within the eye is not exactly understood by doctors, but studies have been able to show that glaucoma is genetically connected and runs in families.
Two main types of glaucoma are seen in the majority of cases: open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma.
- Open-Angle Glaucoma: In this form of glaucoma, the drainage angle that is formed by the cornea and iris remain open, but the trabecular meshwork (the tissue that the fluid flows between) is partially blocked. This causes pressure to slowly increase inside the eye.
- Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This form takes place when the iris bulges forward to narrow or block the drainage angle between the cornea and iris. Because of this, fluid cannot circulate through the eye and pressure rises. Angle-closure glaucoma can develop over time or suddenly, and if brought on quickly requires immediate medical attention.
(The best way to prevent glaucoma is by having regular eye exams.)
While pinpointing the exact cause of glaucoma is somewhat of a question mark, several risk factors have been observed that inflate the likelihood of developing the eye condition.
- African American, Asian, and Hispanic populations are at an increased risk
- Age– greater than 60
- People with a family history of glaucoma
- Medical conditions like Sickle Cell, Heart Disease, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure
- Corneas that are thin in the middle
- Extreme cases of near or farsightedness
- Eye injuries
- Taking corticosteroid medications for extended periods of time
Unfortunately, by the time an individual begins to display symptoms, it is often too late to reverse or restore the full function of the eye. Because glaucoma is a slow-developing disease, and initial warning signs are absent, it is important to have a regular comprehensive dilated eye exams to discover conditions like glaucoma before they can inflict irreparable damage.
Outside of eye exams, other prevention methods include:
- Knowing family health history
- Prescribed eyedrops
- Wear eye protection
- Limit caffeine
- Healthy diet
(Limiting caffeine intake has been linked to reducing eye pressure.)
In an individual is experiencing any of these symptoms it is recommended to see an eye doctor as soon as possible:
- Patchy blind spots in peripheral vision
- Tunnel vision
- Severe headaches
- Eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Halos surrounding lights
- Eye redness
How to Treat Glaucoma
As mentioned, once the symptoms of glaucoma become apparent it is not possible to reverse the effects. However, treatment can slow and prevent complete blindness. In treatment, optometrists try and lower the eye pressure surrounding the optic nerve.
The two main ways eye pressure is reduced is through prescription eyedrops and surgery. Eye medication can help in one of two ways, either by improving how fluid drains from the eye or decreasing the volume of fluid produced by the eye. Varying surgeries also offer options to best fit the case of the individual.
- Laser Therapy: Used for open-angle glaucoma, a laser beam opens trabecular meshwork to allow for better fluid flow out of the eye.
- Filtering Surgery: An opening is created in the sclera (white part of the eye) and the trabecular meshwork is completely removed.
- Drainage Tubes: Small tubes are inserted to help drain fluid away from the optic nerve.
Your Protector Against Glaucoma in Columbia, MO
Eyes are one of the most sensitive and important organs in the body. Maintaining good eye health is something to prioritize in even the most hectic schedule. Contact us today to make an appointment, and we will take care of all your vision concerns and questions.