March 07, 2022
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is the nerve that connects your eye to the brain. This damage is usually caused due to abnormally high pressure in your eye (intraocular pressure). If the damage worsens, glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss within a few years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. And about three million Americans have glaucoma.
Most forms of glaucoma come with no warning signs, so you may not notice a change in vision until the condition has reached an advanced stage. Since vision loss due to glaucoma is irreversible, it is crucial to have regular eye exams to diagnose the condition early and protect against loss of vision.
Glaucoma can occur at any age but is most common among adults in their 70s and 80s. As mentioned above, glaucoma is caused by optic nerve damage that gradually leads to blind spots in your visual field. For reasons experts don’t completely understand, this nerve damage is often related to increased pressure in the eye.
A healthy eye constantly produces aqueous humor, a clear, water-like fluid inside the front part of your eye. As new aqueous fluid flows into your eye, the same amount has to drain out. This fluid drains out through the trabecular meshwork tissue that helps keep eye pressure stable. But if the fluid is overproduced or the drainage system doesn’t work properly, the fluid builds up in the eye, increasing intraocular pressure and damaging the optic nerve.
Glaucoma in babies, young children, and teenagers is referred to as developmental glaucoma. It can be primary or secondary, meaning it develops independently or as a result of another disease or abnormality. Like adult glaucoma, this diagnosis implies that some degree of optic nerve damage has already occurred. However, the degree is not always severe, and early detection and treatment can often halt the progression and maintain visual acuity.
Unlike adult glaucoma, children’s glaucoma generally has noticeable symptoms, making it easier to detect. However, developmental glaucoma usually worsens much faster and does not react well to nonsurgical treatment. Also known as childhood or pediatric glaucoma, this condition can be divided into two types: congenital glaucoma and juvenile glaucoma.
Congenital or infantile glaucoma is glaucoma that affects babies and children under three. When glaucoma strikes a child after the age of three, it is called juvenile glaucoma. When glaucoma occurs in older children or young adults, it is known as early-onset glaucoma.
The number of children with primary congenital glaucoma varies by country. However, it is not as common as primary open-angle glaucoma in adults. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF), around one out of every 10,000 children are born with this condition in the United States. And juvenile or early-onset glaucoma is even more uncommon. According to recent data released by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the prevalence of this condition in people between the ages four and 20 ranges from 0.38 to 2 in 100,000.
There are many types of glaucoma, but the most common is primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
Less common types of glaucoma include:
Glaucoma doesn’t usually have any noticeable symptoms during the initial stage. It tends to develop over many years gradually and affects your peripheral vision first. And this is why most people do not realize they have glaucoma until it is detected during a routine eye exam.
The most noticeable symptoms of glaucoma include blurry vision or halos around lights. Although these symptoms generally affect both eyes, they can be much worse in one eye.
Open-angle glaucoma may produce symptoms such as:
Acute angle-closure glaucoma can occur suddenly and cause symptoms such as:
People exhibiting the above symptoms of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack should immediately be checked by their ophthalmologist.
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but some are more likely than others. Because chronic glaucoma can cause vision loss before any symptoms or signs appear, be aware of the following risk factors:
Talk to an ophthalmologist about your risk for glaucoma and ask how often you need to get checked. People with a high risk of developing glaucoma need to get a comprehensive eye examination every one to two years.
The only foolproof way to diagnose glaucoma is through a complete eye exam. A glaucoma screening that only checks eye pressure is usually not enough to detect glaucoma. Glaucoma tests are simple and painless. Your doctor will administer some eye drops to dilate your pupils and check your eyes for glaucoma or any other eye issues. In addition, your doctor will also:
If the glaucoma test suggests you have an eye disease, you will be asked to consult a glaucoma specialist to discuss treatment.
Glaucoma damage is permanent, and no treatment can undo any loss of vision that occurred before the eye condition was diagnosed. And while there isn’t a cure for glaucoma, treatment can help prevent further damage to vision.
To treat glaucoma, doctors may use one or more of the following treatments:
Some medications can also interact with other substances and cause adverse reactions. Thus, ensure to inform your doctor about any other medical condition you have or medications you take.
Inform your doctor if you experience any side effects from glaucoma medicines.
Although glaucoma cannot be prevented, early detection and medical treatment can lower the risk of irreversible damage to the eye. Here are a few steps that may help protect your field of vision:
Scientists are studying other possible glaucoma causes to detect and treat the condition better. The National Eye Institute (NEI) is also funding research on new treatment options for glaucoma patients. But in the meantime, people with glaucoma should commit to regular eye exams and follow advice from their health care provider to prevent the condition from leading to irreversible vision loss.
Here at OOMC, our patient’s well-being is our priority. Our dedicated team of surgeons and staff always makes an effort to create a safe and secure environment where you can easily access care comfortably and confidently.
Contact one of our centers nearest to you for further information.
Phillips Eye Specialists
Corneal Associates of New Jersey
Kremer Eye Center
Omni Eye Services
Ludwick Eye Center