Glaucoma: Symptoms, Treatment, Risk Factors & Ways to Prevent

More than 4.2 million people aged 40 years and over in the United States are either blind or are with low vision. The CDC says that the leading cause of blindness or low vision among Americans is primarily age-related eye diseases such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma. Identifying the warning signs of each of these diseases helps middle-aged or older people seek appropriate treatment early. So in this article, we intend to introduce you to glaucoma, its symptoms, risk factors, prevention, and treatment.

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What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease that affects the patient’s optic nerve. Glaucoma occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. Excess fluid leads to increased intraocular pressure and damage to the optic nerve. Although glaucoma can occur at any age, it is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over 60. Unfortunately, glaucoma may not have warning signs, and the condition can be diagnosed when a person has advanced stages of the disease.


Types of glaucoma

There are different types of this disease, but the two main types are:

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma
  • Angle-closure glaucoma

Other types of glaucoma include:

  • Normal-tension glaucoma
  • Glaucoma in children
  • Pigmentary glaucoma

In the following sections, we define the two common types of this disease.


Primary open-angle glaucoma

This is the most prevalent type of this disease and happens gradually, where the eye does not drain fluid. As a result, the pressure in your eyes increases, and the optic nerve gradually weakens. If you have this type of glaucoma, you do not feel pain and any change in your vision at first. Some people have optic nerves that are susceptible to normal pressure inside the eyes. These people are more at risk, so regular eye exams are necessary to find the early signs of eye damage in these people.


Angle-closure glaucoma

This condition occurs when a person’s iris is close to the drainage angle in the eye. In this way, the iris obstructs the drainage angle. With complete obstruction of the drainage angle, the pressure inside the eye increases quickly. This condition is an eye emergency, and you might go blind. The following symptoms may indicate an acute attack:

  • Your vision is suddenly blurry
  • Experience headaches, nausea, and vomiting
  • See halos around the light
  • Have severe eye pain

Angle-closure glaucoma can lead to blindness if not treated right away.


Symptoms of glaucoma

Glaucoma does not have obvious symptoms at first, but over time the edges of your vision are affected. You may not know you have glaucoma. Therefore, if you have blurred vision or see rainbow-colored circles around bright lights, contact your doctor immediately. Both eyes are usually affected, although it may be worse in one of your eyes. In some cases, glaucoma may develop suddenly and cause the following symptoms:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Headache
  • Seeing the ring around the light
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Tenderness around the eyes


How is glaucoma treated?

Although injury caused by glaucoma is not reversible, treatment can prevent your vision from getting worse. The type of glaucoma determines treatment, but treatment options are:

  • Eye drops: Eye drops help reduce intraocular pressure.
  • Laser treatment: The laser helps open the blocked drainage tube and reduces the production of fluid inside the eye.
  • Surgery: This procedure helps to drain the fluid.


When to see an ophthalmologist

If you have a headache, eye pain, or blurred vision, you should see your ophthalmologist right away. Early detection and treatment of this illness can prevent your vision from getting worse. Remember that glaucoma is an emergency condition and should be treated immediately.


Who is at risk?

People with the following conditions are at higher risk for glaucoma:

  • Increased intraocular pressure
  • Ages over 60 years
  • History of eye injuries or eye surgeries
  • Taking corticosteroids for a long time (for example, eye drops)
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, and high blood pressure


How can glaucoma be prevented?

Considering the following helps to diagnose glaucoma in the early stages:

  • Regular eye examinations: Regular eye examinations help in the early diagnosis of eye diseases, including glaucoma. Based on the American Academy of Ophthalmology, people under 40 must have a comprehensive eye exam every 5 to 10 years. If you are 40 and 54 years old should have these exams every 2 to 4 years, and people between 55 and 64 should have these tests every 1 to 3 years. If you are older than 65 should also have a comprehensive eye exam every 1 to 2 years.
  • Knowing the family history of glaucoma: If you have someone with glaucoma in your family, you should get screened more regularly.
  • Exercise safely: Regular and gentle exercise helps reduce intraocular pressure. You can consult your doctor for a regular exercise program.
  • Regular use of prescribed eye drops: Eye drops prescribed to control glaucoma can significantly reduce intraocular pressure. So you should use them regularly even if you have no symptoms.
  • Wear eye protection: Serious eye damage can lead to glaucoma. When playing high-speed racket sports or using power tools, wear eye protection.


Glaucoma test procedure

Glaucoma testing may involve one test or a combination of tests. The procedures are quick, painless, and noninvasive. They help ophthalmologists see inside your eyes, assess vision loss, and choose treatments.

Glaucoma testing may consist of a single test or a series of exams. The operations are painless, rapid, and noninvasive. They assist ophthalmologists in seeing inside your eyes, assessing vision loss, and selecting therapies.

Glaucoma tests include the following:

Angle exam

This test determines the angle formed by your cornea (the transparent outer layer of your eye) and your iris (the colored section of your eyes). This is where your eye’s drainage system is.

Your ophthalmologist will numb your eye with eye drops before touching your cornea with a specific lens. The lens indicates whether or not the angle is open or closed. The drainage system is stopped if the angle is closed, which may suggest glaucoma. The procedure is also known as gonioscopy.

Corneal thickness measurement

This test examines the thickness of your cornea, which assists your eye doctor in determining your glaucoma risk. Your ophthalmologist will numb your eye with drops before touching it with a little probe. The test is also known as pachymetry.

Dilated eye examination

Eye drops are used in this examination to open your pupil. Then, a specialized instrument sends a bright light into the back of your eye, magnifying the retina and optic nerve. This allows your ophthalmologist to view your retina and optic nerve’s color, size, shape, and blood vessels. Your ophthalmologist will then be able to determine whether or not there is harm to your optic nerve and whether or not this is due to glaucoma.

Eye pressure check

One of the most obvious indicators of glaucoma is elevated eye pressure. Your ophthalmologist will use eye drops to relax your eye before performing an eye pressure test. The pressure is then measured by touching the surface of your eye with a little device and flattening the cornea.

It doesn’t harm to check your eye pressure, and it only takes a few minutes. However, you must stay calm and steady throughout the examination. This examination is also known as tonometry or applanation.

Imaging of the optic nerve

This examination photographs your retina and optic nerve. Your ophthalmologist opens your pupils before taking photographs with a sophisticated digital camera.

Many ophthalmologists utilize an optical coherence tomography system. You lay your chin on a device while looking through a lens. Nothing contacts your eye, and the device takes a few photographs. The photos depict each layer of eye tissue and map the surrounding environment.

Visual field examination

This test determines if you’ve lost sight in certain locations. Visual field testing can also reveal the severity of glaucoma. Multiple tests may be performed to detect how rapidly glaucoma progresses over time.

Your ophthalmologist instructs you to stare straight ahead at an object, like their nose. Next, they may request that you cover one eye. Next, they ask if you can see anything to the side of your vision while gazing straight ahead.

An ophthalmologist may use certain instruments for visual testing. For instance, automated static perimeter necessitates investigating a machine and track lights. Another way includes examining a pattern of lines and commenting on any regions that appear fuzzy or blank.


Lifestyle changes to control intraocular pressure

To control intraocular pressure, you can consider the following points:

  • Healthy diet: A healthy diet prevents glaucoma from getting worse. Try to include nutrients such as zinc, antioxidant vitamins such as C, E, and A, zinc, copper, and selenium in your diet
  • Limit caffeine intake: Caffeinated beverages help increase intraocular pressure.
  • Take prescribed medicine: Use the medications prescribed to control the symptoms of glaucoma properly and regularly. Lack of proper use of these drugs leads to increased intraocular pressure.
  • Exercise safely: If you have open-angle glaucoma, regular exercise will help reduce eye pressure. You can consult your doctor for a proper exercise program.
  • Drink fluids in sips: Use a moderate amount of fluids daily during the course of a day. Drinking more of any liquid in a short time may temporarily increase eye pressure.
  • Sleep with your head elevated: Use a proper pillow so that your head is slightly raised. Therefore, the intraocular pressure decreases during sleep.


Let’s sum up …

Most eye conditions including glaucoma must be detected and treated early on to prevent lasting damage. Therefore, we advice that you do a comprehensive eye exams according to recommendation of American Academy of Ophthalmology. These exams are particularly important in diseases such as glaucoma that do not have obvious warning signs. If you are experiencing noticeable changes in your vision, it is vital to make an appointment for an eye exam ASAP.

If you have any questions or experiences about glaucoma, you can leave them in the comments section. Your questions and experiences will help us produce content tailored to the user’s needs.

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