Glaucoma

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Overview

Our eyesight often gets worse with age. In addition to this normal aging effect, people may also develop eye diseases that impair their vision, or even lead to blindness. Glaucoma is one of the more common eye diseases. It's estimated that, in the industrialized world, about 2 out of 100 people over the age of 40 years have glaucoma.


The term "glaucoma" is used to describe a number of different eye conditions, all of which involve damage to the optic nerve. This damage leads to ever larger gaps in the field of vision, which usually go unnoticed at first. Your field of vision is what you can see when you look straight ahead, without moving your eyes. In advanced stages, your ability to see things sharply (visual acuity) also gets worse.


Over 90 percent of people who have glaucoma have a form called open-angle glaucoma. This form progresses slowly, and damage to the optic nerve doesn't cause vision problems for many years. Eye drops and surgery are the most commonly used treatments. Angle-closure glaucoma is less common: This type can go unnoticed for a long time, but then very suddenly cause severe vision loss and other problems.

Symptoms

People with glaucoma can no longer see certain areas within their field of vision, or can only see them to a limited degree. Blind spots appear, usually near the point of sharpest vision (macula) and up to the edges of the field of vision. Because central vision isn’t affected at first, these problems are often not noticeable at the beginning.


But the blind spots can make it increasingly difficult to get around in everyday life. When looking straight ahead, for example while driving, you can see the street ahead of you clearly, but not the people and objects on the sidewalks to the right and left. It can also be difficult to adjust to changes in light, like when you enter a dark hallway from outdoors. And it can become increasingly harder to see obstacles like steps or the curb. This increases the risk of falls.


Angle-closure glaucoma may lead to an acute attack of glaucoma. This happens when there’s a sudden and great increase in intraocular pressure (the pressure inside the eye). Typical symptoms include acute vision problems, reddening of the eye, intense headache and eye pain, and nausea.

Eye pain or pressure.

Headaches.

Rainbow-colored halos around lights.

Low vision, blurred vision, narrowed vision (tunnel vision) or blind spots.

Nausea and vomiting.

Red eyes.

Causes

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60.

Glaucoma is a chronic, progressive eye disease caused by damage to the optic nerve, which leads to visual field loss. One of the major risk factors is eye pressure. An abnormality in the eye's drainage system can cause fluid to build up, leading to excessive pressure that causes damage to the optic nerve.


Risk factors

Having high internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure)

Being over age 60.

Being black, Asian or Hispanic.

Having a family history of glaucoma.

Having certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia.

Having corneas that are thin in the center.

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Complications

Untreated glaucoma can lead to faster development of permanent vision loss or blindness. Treatments can slow down additional vision loss, but they can't restore lost vision. It's important to see your eye doctor right away if you have eye pain, severe headaches or vision problems.

Potential complications of glaucoma are not life threatening. However, without treatment, glaucoma can lead to vision impairment and blindness, which can reduce quality of life.

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Complications of glaucoma include:

a loss of central or peripheral vision.

blindness or changes in vision.

chronic eye pain.

Prevention

Get regular dilated eye examinations. Regular comprehensive eye exams can help detect glaucoma in its early stages, before significant damage occurs. ...

Know your family's eye health history. Glaucoma tends to run in families. ...

Exercise safely. ...

Take prescribed eyedrops regularly. ...

Wear eye protection.