As January starts a new year it also brings awareness to a disease that continues to affect millions of Americans. Most people have heard of the eye condition known as Glaucoma, but few really know what it is or how it is caused. Over 3 million Americans (and over 60 million people all over the world) have a form of glaucoma and there is a projection that this number could jump to a whopping 4.2 million Americans by the year 2030, as projected by the National Eye Institute. Glaucoma is like the best kind of thief, it steals vision and causes blindness before most people notice it, before some can take action. Up to 40% of a person’s vision can be affected before they are aware they have a problem. Glaucoma holds the #1 spot of causes of blindness. The best way to help prevent people losing their sight is education and awareness. Just like everyone is encouraged to have regular check-ups with their doctor to keep up with their health, we should also be seeing our eye doctor on a regular basis to make sure our eyes are healthy and functioning properly. Since education is half the battle, let’s take a look at this complex beast called Glaucoma.
What Is Glaucoma & What Causes It?
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve in the eye. When there is a buildup of fluid in the front part of the eye and the drainage system of the eye isn’t working properly, this excess fluid causes a build up of pressure which damages the optic nerve itself. Healthy eyes and healthy drainage systems are able to drain off excess fluid but eyes that can’t drain off fluid as well cause an increase in pressure. There are 5 definitive types of glaucoma:
- Open-angle glaucoma – The most common form of glaucoma, is caused by a partial blockage drainage system of the eye, causing pressure from the fluid build up, damaging the optic nerve.
- Angle-closure glaucoma – Occurs when the iris of the eye protrudes forward, blocking the drainage angle, causing fluid build up.
- Normal-tension glaucoma – This occurs when the optic nerve is damaged, even though eye pressure is normal.
- Glaucoma in children – Some children develop glaucoma at birth or in the first few years of life. When the optic nerve is damaged by a blockage in the drainage system or by some other health condition.
- Pigmentary glaucoma – pigment granules (tiny particles that break off from the iris, otherwise known as the color part of your eye) that can block the drainage system of the eye, which causes pressure to build up and that damages the optic nerve.
Symptoms Of Glaucoma
It’s always helpful to know what symptoms to look for if you think you could possibly have signs of glaucoma, and if you do, get to an eye doctor as soon as possible,
- Tunnel vision
- Small patches of spots obstructing vision in your central or peripheral vision
- Eye pain
- Bad headaches
- Blurry vision
- Vomiting, nausea
- Red eyes
- Halo vision around lights
Treatments For Glaucoma
Glaucoma causes damage that can’t be undone, but if caught early, treatments to lower the pressure in your eye can include:
- Oral medications
- Prescription eye drops
- Laser treatment
Where To Turn For More Education, Awareness & How You Can Help
The BEST way to prevent glaucoma is regular check-ups with your eye doctor! Early detection and treatment is ESSENTIAL!!! If you or loved ones have been affected by glaucoma, help spread the word by education and awareness. Let’s join together to “save sight!” For more information, how you can help and to donate to the cause, check out the website for the Glaucoma Research Foundation here: www.glaucoma.org.
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