Should I Be Worried About Glaucoma?

Older people with glaucoma exercising

Due to aging, there are a lot of changes our bodies go through, especially when it comes to our vision. Age also comes with an increased risk for a variety of eye conditions.

While it’s never a guarantee that you’ll develop a condition, it’s something you should be aware of once you reach a certain age. One common condition, glaucoma, comes with irreversible damage to your vision when left untreated.

But you shouldn’t worry. Instead, just be aware and take the steps you need to save your vision.

Glaucoma is manageable and as long as you have regular eye exams, you can have it diagnosed early. This helps to slow down and prevent further vision loss. Keep reading to learn more about glaucoma!

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a blanket term. It refers to a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, usually as the result of high pressure caused by blocked fluids in the eye.

The optic nerve is a vital part of the eye and it handles sending impulses to the brain so it can process that information as images. When the optic nerve becomes damaged, that process is incomplete.

It can cause blind spots in your peripheral vision and even tunnel vision when the damage goes unchecked. Glaucoma may lead to total blindness if left untreated.

There are two primary kinds of glaucoma:

Open-angle glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma occurs when the channel between the cornea and iris is unblocked but the semi-permeable trabecular meshwork that fluids pass through is partially blocked.

Closed-angle glaucoma

Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when the iris bulges and blocks the channel between itself and the cornea. This often causes a rapid buildup of fluid and pressure.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma, which happens when the closure occurs suddenly, is accompanied by clear symptoms like severe headache, eye pain, nausea, and blurred vision. It’s considered a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in individuals 60 and older. It’s often hard to spot as the most common form of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, presents no symptoms until there’s vision loss.

Any lost vision due to glaucoma is irreversible. Treatment only prevents further damage.

This is why it’s important to know your personal risk for glaucoma and have regular eye exams. This is the best way to get an early diagnosis, possibly before any vision loss occurs.

Risk Factors

There’s a long list of factors that can heighten your risk for glaucoma. They include:

  • Being over 60
  • Being of African, Asian, or Hispanic descent
  • High refractive error (nearsightedness or farsightedness)
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Long-term use of corticosteroid medication
  • A family history of glaucoma

If any of these factors apply to you, you should be having regular eye exams to check your internal eye pressure and optic nerve health. Your doctor will be able to tell you how often you should have exams based on your risk.

Management

After a glaucoma diagnosis, it isn’t the end of the world! If there isn’t any damage to your vision, proper management can prevent the condition from worsening and preserve your vision.

There is no cure for glaucoma but medication and surgical intervention can stop its progression. Medicated eye drops can be used regularly to lower internal eye pressure.

In conjunction with or even in place of these medications, surgery can be done to remove fluid from the eye or put in a shunt to continually drain fluid. There is a large variety of medications and other techniques that can manage glaucoma. Talk to your doctor to help find what will work best for you.

Concerned that you or a loved one may have glaucoma? Schedule an appointment at Shepherd Eye Center in Henderson, NV to learn more about how we can help!

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