What Causes Glaucoma?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, affecting around 3 million Americans. Unfortunately, as many as half of that number do not realize that they are suffering from glaucoma, due to that fact that the symptoms of glaucoma are subtle in its early stages. The symptoms of glaucoma are currently still irreversible, and early identification and preventative treatment of glaucoma is the only known way of slowing the deterioration of the patient’s eyesight.
What is Glaucoma and What Causes It?
Glaucoma is a degenerative eye condition that is characterized by increased pressure inside the eye. To understand the cause of glaucoma, it is first necessary to understand the structure of the eye.
Fluid is one of the primary components of our eye. Our eyeballs are filled with a watery substance called the aqueous humour. Its purpose is to create pressure and give the eyeball its spongy, round shape. In healthy eyes, this fluid flows in and out of the eyes constantly. However, in patients with glaucoma, the fluid is unable to drain as effectively as it should. This causes pressure to build up in the eye, which in turn places pressure on the optic nerve, the main nerve sending messages between the eye and brain. In patients with glaucoma, the messages between the eye and brain become interrupted, causing vision loss as well as the other glaucoma symptoms.
Types of Glaucoma
Many people do not realize that there are actually two different types of glaucoma. The majority of patients suffer from open-angle glaucoma, with the closed-angle variety being very rare.
Open angle glaucoma
Open angle glaucoma is caused by a gradual increase of pressure in the eye. Patients with open-angle glaucoma find that their peripheral vision is affected first, and their eyesight will continue to deteriorate until treatment begins.
Symptoms of open angle glaucoma
The most difficult thing about open angle glaucoma is the subtleness with which the symptoms develop. The hazing and blurriness of vision will creep in gradually, starting with the periphery of your eyesight, and working its way inwards. It is often only when it reaches the main field of vision that patients notice something is wrong.
Closed angle glaucoma
Closed angle glaucoma is caused by a sudden increase in intraocular pressure, often taking place over a matter of hours. This places immense pressure on the optic nerve and causes intense and rapid vision loss. Occasionally, patients may experience a temporary attack of closed angle glaucoma. This happens when the pupils dilate too quickly from walking into a brightly lit space into a dark one, or if we are particularly excited or stressed. Some prescription medications can also cause acute closed angle glaucoma.
Symptoms of closed angle glaucoma
Symptoms of closed angle glaucoma include:
- Severe eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Seeing halos around light sources
- Profuse tearing of the eyes
Am I at risk of developing glaucoma?
Glaucoma can affect virtually anybody. However, there are some specific groups of individuals who are deemed to be at a greater risk of developing the condition. The most common risk-factors for glaucoma, include:
- Advancing age. Intraocular pressure builds up over time, and by the age of 75, one in ten people will suffer from open-angle glaucoma.
- Those with a family history of the disease.
- Those who are of African, Asian, or Caribbean descent.
Glaucoma can be treated in a number of ways. In the earliest stages, Dr. Ahdoot might recommend a combination of pills and eye drops. As the condition progresses, more treatments may be necessary, like the innovative iStent® treatment, laser eye surgery, or conventional surgery. Each treatment plan will be dependent on your health, and it should be discussed with Dr. Ahdoot. Although there is no complete cure for glaucoma, early detection means that treatment can be started to prevent the condition from worsening, and causing your eyesight from deteriorating further.
If you have concerns about glaucoma, or if you would simply like further information, call Progressive Ophthalmology today in Sunnyside, NY at 718-565-2020.