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January 02, 2020
Glaucoma is a tricky eye disease with very few warning signs. In fact, patients suffering from glaucoma may not notice any symptoms at all until irreversible damage has already been done.
In America, 1.1 million patients are being treated for glaucoma, and another one million are suffering from glaucoma without any knowledge of their condition. So how can you identify the sneaky symptoms of this disease? Find out more about what glaucoma is, who is at risk for glaucoma, and the signs you can look for to prevent permanent damage.
Glaucoma occurs when the aqueous humor does not properly flow out of the eye, causing increased pressure, known as intraocular pressure. Normally, the fluid is produced by the rear chamber of the eye, then flows through the pupil, through the front chamber, and out of the eye. When glaucoma is present, the fluid doesn’t flow out of the eye properly, causing increased pressure to build. This pressure damages the optic nerve and results in vision loss.
The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle, where the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time due to improper draining of the aqueous humor. Symptoms don’t typically show up in the early stages of open-angle glaucoma, so the disease is very difficult to identify until the damage is already done. The main symptoms that may occur are cloudiness and gradual loss of peripheral vision.
The second most common type of glaucoma is called closed-angle. In this condition, the angle between the iris and the cornea closes or narrows, blocking the aqueous humor from properly draining. Closed-angle glaucoma usually begins in one eye first. Symptoms are more noticeable than in open-angle glaucoma, and include blurred vision, seeing halos around lights, experiencing extreme eye pain, and intense headaches and nausea.
Although these symptoms may not be easy to identify, understanding what they are can help you be aware if you happen to experience them.
It’s possible for anyone to develop glaucoma, but some are at a higher risk than others. People who are over 60, African-American, or Latin American are at risk for glaucoma. Other factors that can increase chances of glaucoma include family history, eye trauma, hypertension, steroid use, thin corneas, or diabetes.
Because glaucoma develops causing little or no symptoms in the early stages of the disease, regular eye exams are the best way to prevent extensive damage such as blindness. Eye exams and dilations are crucial, because they can identify glaucoma earlier than you can. Treating glaucoma early can help you keep your vision.
Discuss with your optometrist how often you should have a scheduled eye exam to prevent glaucoma. Those who are at risk to develop glaucoma should especially see their optometrist often.
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