Signs of Glaucoma
Approximately 3 million Americans have glaucoma but because there are not many signs of glaucoma only about half are aware of their condition. It is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. Also, 75% of those who are diagnosed as legally blind from glaucoma are senior citizens.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is a bundle of nerves that transmits information from the eyes to the brain. With glaucoma, there is an increase in intraocular pressure from fluid that is not draining from the eye. This fluid builds up and creates pressure inside the eye also adding pressure to the optic nerve eventually causing damage. Glaucoma can occur in only one eye or both eyes.
Risk Factors for Glaucoma
Infants, children, and young adults can have glaucoma, but it is most common in people over the age of 40. People 60 and older are six times more likely to get glaucoma. Having a family member with glaucoma increases the risk along with steroid users and people who have had eye trauma such as boxers and baseball players. African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians are also at a higher risk. The Glaucoma Research Foundation shares, “After cataracts, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African Americans. Blindness from glaucoma is 6 to 8 times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. African Americans are 15 times more likely to be visually impaired from glaucoma than Caucasians.”
What Causes Glaucoma?
Experts do not really know what causes the fluid obstruction leading to glaucoma. Other less common causes of glaucoma are inflammation, serious eye infections, blocked blood vessels, blunt injury to the eye, and damage from chemicals. Potential increases in the risk of glaucoma include diabetes, high blood pressure, eye surgery, very severe nearsightedness (high myopia), and the use of corticosteroids.
Signs of Glaucoma
Usually there are no alerting signs or symptoms in the early stages. However, as glaucoma progresses people note blind spots developing in peripheral vision, blurred vision, or a decrease in vision, red eyes, seeing halos and rainbows, severe pain in the eyes or forehead, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and hazy looking eyes.
Glaucoma Prevention and Treatment
There is no magic formula to prevent glaucoma but there are some things that can be beneficial for general eye and overall health. Know you family medical history, go to yearly eye appointments, exercise regularly, wear sunglasses and eye protection, eat healthy meals, do not smoke, and limit caffeine.
Since there are usually no signs of glaucoma until the later stages, it is best to have a complete eye exam every year for early detection. If signs of glaucoma are discovered, then an ophthalmologist with recommend the best course of action to prevent further damage. These treatments can include oral medication, eye drops, microsurgery, or laser surgery to reduce eye pressure.