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What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the common name for a group of diseases that lead to optic nerve damage and vision loss. Glaucoma is generally a preventable form of vision loss and can be cured if detected early. Unfortunately, about 10% of people who receive proper treatment nevertheless still lose their vision. Glaucoma often has no obvious signs or symptoms before vision loss begins. The best way to protect yourself is to have regular eye exams along with a special glaucoma screening.

Causes of glaucoma

In most cases, optic nerve damage in glaucoma is caused by increased intraocular pressure, in which fluid pressure inside the eye increases, causing compression and damage to the optic nerve. Intraocular pressure increases when the fluids produced in the eye lose their ability to leave the eye through their normal pathway, known as the open angle between the iris and cornea. They accumulate in the eye, resulting in an increase in pressure. However, in the case of glaucoma with normal pressure, the cause of optic nerve damage is not always clear.

Risk factors for glaucoma

Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the world. Because the signs and symptoms of glaucoma are often subtle, it is called the “silent thief of sight.” Everyone is advised to get regular glaucoma screenings as part of a comprehensive eye exam, especially if one or more glaucoma risk factors are present.

Risk factors for glaucoma vary depending on the type of glaucoma.

Primary open angle glaucoma

Primary open angle glaucoma, in which the open angle eventually clogs up, is the most common form of glaucoma. Risk factors for open-angle glaucoma include:

  • Age. Individuals over age 60 are six times more likely to have glaucoma.
  • Family history. If other members of your family have glaucoma, your risk increases four to nine times.
  • Medications. Steroids can increase your risk of open-angle glaucoma by 40 percent.
  • Health condition. High blood pressure can increase your risk of open-angle glaucoma.

Risk factors for glaucoma vary depending on the type of glaucoma.

Closed-angle glaucoma

Closed angle glaucoma, also known as acute angle glaucoma, occurs when the iris protrudes over the angle, blocking the drainage channels. This leads to a rapid and dangerous increase in intraocular pressure. Risk factors for closed-angle glaucoma include

  • Vision. If you have farsightedness, your risk is increased.
  • Age. Your risk for closed-angle glaucoma increases with age
  • Gender. Women are at increased risk.

Secondary glaucoma

Secondary glaucoma, in which the open angle is occluded because of damage to the eye, inflammation, malignancy, cataracts, or diabetes, can occur for one of the following reasons

  • Damage to the eye. Both blunt and penetrating trauma to the eye can lead to secondary glaucoma.
  • Health condition. Diabetes and cataracts can increase the risk of secondary glaucoma.
  • Gender and skin color. Light-skinned women are at risk for certain types of secondary glaucoma.
  • Medications. Certain medications may increase the risk of open-angle or closed-angle glaucoma of a secondary type.

Eye protection

Even if you are not exposed to any of the risk factors, you may still develop glaucoma. It is recommended that you get checked for glaucoma.

Glaucoma treatment

Treating glaucoma can prevent severe vision loss if the disease is diagnosed early enough. Treatment options include:

  • Eye drops;
  • Surgery;
  • Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT)

When glaucoma occurs, lifelong treatment and monitoring is required. If you are prescribed glaucoma medication, you need to take it according to your doctor’s instructions. Glaucoma HAS signs – it can be diagnosed before you feel any symptoms. Symptoms are subjective and may or may not be understood by the doctor. Signs are objective and understood by the doctor, but may or may not be seen by the patient.

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