What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a medical condition that affects the eyes. It is characterized by high pressure in the eyes, leading to damages on the optic nerve, which can eventually impair your vision.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. It can affect both men and women at any age. However, glaucoma is more common in older adults.
There are two types of glaucoma:
- Open-angle glaucoma
- Acute angle glaucoma
- Normal tension glaucoma
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of the disease. It is caused by a partial blockage of the trabecular meshwork, while the draining angle remains open. The pressure in the eyes increases gradually, damaging the optic nerve. It has a very slow progression.
Acute angle glaucoma can occur suddenly and gradually. When it occurs suddenly it presents a medical emergency. The pressure in the eyes increases due to a narrowing of the angle formed by the cornea and iris.
Normal tension glaucoma is the type of glaucoma in which the optic nerve gets damaged while the tension in the eyes remains normal. The real reason for normal tension glaucoma is not known.
Risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Having someone in the family with the same eye problems
- Having high internal eye pressure
- Being Black or Hispanic
- Being over the age of 60 years old
- Having certain eye conditions
- Using corticosteroid medications for a long period of time, especially eye drops
- Having certain medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart diseases, sickle cell anemia, etc.
What causes Glaucoma?
As mentioned before the increases pressure in the eye will damage the optic nerve. As the optic nerve is gradually damaged, vision problems and blind spots in the peripheral or central vision will appear. The reason why the pressure is increased in the eyes is not known. However, it is well known that increased pressure in the eyes results from the accumulation of the fluid that normally flows through the eyes. This fluid in normal conditions drains into the anterior chamber of the eyes through a trabecular meshwork at the angle where iris and cornea meet. In cases when more fluid is produced than necessary, or in cases when the drainage system does not work properly, the fluid will start to accumulate and the pressure will increase.
Glaucoma is a medical condition that tends to run in the families, so the genetic factor is believed to play also a key role.
Signs and symptoms of Glaucoma
The signs and symptoms of glaucoma will depend from the type of glaucoma that you have. They will also depend from the stage of the disease.
Signs and symptoms of open angle glaucoma include patchy blind spots on both of the eyes in peripheral or central vision, while in advance stages of the disease, tunnel vision is characteristic.
Acute angle glaucoma is a severe type of glaucoma, usually characterized by pain in the eyes, blurred vision, eye redness, halos around lights, severe headache, nausea, and vomiting, etc.
If left untreated, glaucoma will gradually progress and eventually it will result in vision loss. Regardless of the treatment, 15% of the patients suffering from glaucoma will end losing their vision in at least one eye within 20 years.