Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve in the eye. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting information seen by the eye to the brain. The disease is often linked to a buildup of too much pressure inside the eye. This pressure damages the optic nerve. Once the nerve is damaged, the condition only gets worse over time. Ultimately, it can lead to blindness. Early treatment, however, can prevent the loss of vision. Evergreen Eye Care can help.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two types of glaucoma.

  • Primary open angle glaucoma. This is the most common type of glaucoma. It occurs gradually, due to poor drainage of the fluid in the eye. It is often painless, and there are no changes in your vision at first.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma. This type of glaucoma occurs when your iris is too close to the cornea. As a result, the iris blocks the drainage angle. If the angle is completely blocked, it can lead to rapid pressure buildup, which can lead quickly to blindness if treatment is not sought immediately.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

There are several risk factors that can increase your likelihood of developing glaucoma. While glaucoma cannot be prevented, knowing your risk can help you to take preventative action by having regular eye exams and knowing the symptoms. Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Your age. The older you are, the greater risk. However, there are some cases in which young adults, children, and even infants can develop the disease.
  • Your background. Certain backgrounds are more at risk, such as individuals who are African-American, Irish, Russian, Japanese or Scandinavian.
  • Family history. There are links between genetics and glaucoma.
  • Certain medical conditions. Those with diabetes, hypertension or hypothyroidism have an increased risk.
  • Corticoid steroid use. Prolonged use of corticoid steroids may increase your risk.
  • Nearsightedness. This is a condition in which you cannot see objects in the distance.

What Causes Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is caused by high fluid pressure in the eye. This pressure build-up occurs when the fluid, called aqueous humor, in the front area of your eye does not flow as it is supposed to. In a healthy eye, the fluid flows out of the eye through a channel. If the channel is blocked, the fluid builds up. This creates the pressure in the eye that damages the optic nerve. As the nerve fibers begin to die, blind spots begin to form until blindness eventually occurs. Other, less common, causes of glaucoma include:

  • Eye injuries, physical or chemical.
  • Eye infection.
  • Inflammatory conditions.
  • Blocked blood vessels.

Glaucoma Symptoms

With open-angle glaucoma, there are no early warning signs, as pressure builds gradually. As the condition progresses, however, you may start to notice blind spots in your peripheral vision. Because the buildup of pressure is so slow, most people do not notice any symptoms until the damage is more severe.

With angle-closure glaucoma, you may not notice any symptoms until you have an attack when the drainage angle is completely blocked. Some individuals may experience early symptoms such as blurred vision, eye pain, halos or mild headaches. These symptoms should be checked as quickly as possible. Symptoms of a complete angle closure attack include:

  • Severe eye pain.
  • Redness.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Halos.
  • Headaches.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Treatment for Glaucoma

Glaucoma tests are done during your regular eye exams and are essential as these tests are the only way to diagnose the disease. During this test, the eye pressure is measured, the drainage angle is examined, the optic nerve is measured and examined, and the peripheral vision is tested.
If glaucoma is detected, a treatment plan is made. While the damage from the disease cannot be reversed, the condition can be treated to prevent further damage from occurring. Common treatments for glaucoma include:

  • Medication. Eye drop medications can be used to reduce pressure in the eyes.
  • Laser surgery. Laser surgery can help the drainage of fluid from your eye. A trabeculoplasty is done for open-angle glaucoma. This procedure is done to make the drainage angle function better. For angle closure glaucoma, an iridotomy may be done to create small holes in the iris to help the flow of fluid.
  • Microsurgery. In some instances, a surgical procedure may be needed to create a new drainage channel, which will help the fluid to properly leave your eye.

Regular eye exams, during which glaucoma tests are performed, are important for early detection and prevention of vision loss. However, if you notice any symptoms of glaucoma in between your annual visits, it is important to seek treatment immediately. Call 360-573-3937 for more information or to schedule your appointment today at 360-573-3937.


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