Glaucoma is an eye disorder involving the optic nerve often associated with an unsafe build-up of intraocular pressure on the nerve.
Glaucoma is an eye disorder involving the optic nerve. It's often associated with an unsafe build-up of intraocular pressure on the nerve, which can cause serious damage. Left untreated, glaucoma can lead from a noticeable loss of peripheral vision to complete blindness. Following cataracts, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. Around half of the 2.5 million Americans with glaucoma will experience at least some vision loss.
Because it typically has no symptoms and is painless, glaucoma is often referred to as "the silent thief of sight." As a result it, it often progresses unchecked until the optic nerve suffers irreversible damage.
However, with acute angle-closure glaucoma, there can be a few sudden symptoms such as blurred vision, halos around lights, intense eye pain, nausea and vomiting. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should immediately consult their doctor, or visit an emergency room to avoid permanent loss of vision.
Types of Glaucoma
Glaucoma has been categorized into 6 different types.
The first is primary open-angle glaucoma or POAG, which progresses slowly and often goes undetected until serious eye damage is afflicted. Untreated, it can result in loss of peripheral vision eventually leading to tunnel vision.
Normal-tension glaucoma is similar to POAG, and causes damage to the optic nerve, but the intraocular pressure remains low. Doctors are still unsure what causes normal-tension glaucoma but suspect it has something to do with poor blood flow to the optic nerve.
Pigmentary glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma caused by pigment deposits from the iris that clog the draining angles and prevent proper liquids from leaving the eye. Eventually the body's inflammatory response to the blockage damages the drainage system.
Angle-closure glaucoma is unique in causing sudden symptoms such as eye pain, headaches, halos around lights, nausea, vomiting and vision loss. The symptoms may come in waves, or attacks, that last several hours and then subside. Each wave carries away part of your field of vision.
Secondary glaucoma is triggered by a preceding event such as an eye injury or infection.
Congenital glaucoma is present at birth and around 80 percent of cases are diagnosed by age one. Because children so young cannot communicate, it is hard to detect signs of congenital glaucoma.
Depending on its severity and how far the disease has progressed, treatment can involve surgery, lasers, or medicated eye drops. However, because glaucoma is relatively painless, patients tend to lapse in their treatments, which is the leading reason for glaucoma causing blindness.