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Glaucoma: Symptoms and Treatment
More than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma, a disease that is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.1 The World Health Organization estimates that over 4 million people in the world have become blind due to glaucoma.2
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Help spread awareness of this disease by learning the facts about glaucoma and discussing it with your loved ones.
What is Glaucoma?
High eye pressure can occur due to fluid buildup.3 This fluid typically drains out of a tissue where the iris and cornea connect. When this eye fluid is overproduced or unable to be properly drained, eye pressure increases.
Glaucoma can affect people at any age, but it’s more common in older adults. It also tends to run in families, making it mostly a hereditary condition.
- Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma, and it is estimated that around 90% of glaucoma cases are this type. Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly and oftentimes its symptoms go unnoticed. This type of glaucoma is cause by the clogging of drainage canals, resulting in a wide, open angle between the iris and the cornea. As a result, high eye pressure will occur in the affected area.
- Angle-closure glaucoma is less common, but it develops quickly with very noticeable symptoms such as eye pain, headaches, and blurred vision. Angle-closure glaucoma causes a narrow or closed angle between the iris and the cornea.
- Normal-tension glaucoma is when the optic nerve is damaged, and this can occur without high eye pressure. It is unknown as to why some people may have damaged optic nerves even though they have normal eye pressure.
- Congenital glaucoma occurs in babies when there is incomplete development in the eye drainage canals. This is a rare condition, and it can be treated if it’s not a complicated case.
There are multiple factors that can put certain people at risk for glaucoma:
- Age. The risk of glaucoma increases with age and is more common in those over 60.
- Ethnicity. Individuals of African descent are more likely to develop glaucoma.
- Eye problems. Physical injury to the eye or chronic inflammation can lead to glaucoma.
- Family history. You’re more at risk for glaucoma if a parent or grandparent has it.
- Medical history. Individuals with diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease are more at risk for glaucoma.
- Medicine. If you take certain medications, such as steroids or blood pressure medicine for an extended amount of time, you may be more at risk for developing glaucoma.5
Symptoms of Glaucoma
The symptoms of glaucoma will depend on which type you have.
Symptoms of open-angle glaucoma include:
- Reduced vision
- Patchy spots in your side (peripheral) or central vision
- Tunnel vision
- Pupil dilation to medium size
- Redness in the white of the eye
Symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma include:
- Blurry vision
- Eye redness
- Eye pain
- Get annual eye exams. If you’re at risk for glaucoma, your eye doctor will be able to watch for it and potentially catch it in its early stages.
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. If you take certain medications, such as steroids or blood pressure medicine, discuss with your doctor your risk for developing glaucoma.
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat healthy foods such as leafy green vegetables and colorful berries to consume nutrients and antioxidants that aid in eye health.
- Exercise with caution. Exercise keeps you and your body healthy, but make sure to do it carefully. Intense exercise increases the heart rate and also increases eye pressure.
- Protect your eyes. Make sure to protect your eyes, whether it’s wearing protective gear during sports or sunglasses when outdoors.
- Be mindful of your head position. Be careful to not place your head below your heart for long periods of time because head-down positions can raise your eye pressure. Also try to avoid sleeping with your eyes against a pillow or your arm.
An eye doctor will test you for glaucoma by doing a simple vision test, as well as using drops to dilate, or widen, your pupils. This allows your eye doctor to better examine your eyes.
Your eye doctor will check the optic nerve for signs of damage. They will also perform a tonometry test which checks the pressure in your eyes.8 A visual field test will be used to determine if you have any loss in peripheral vision.
If your eye doctor suspects glaucoma, they will have special imaging tests done on your optic nerve to properly diagnose you.
When left untreated, glaucoma can lead to further vision loss or blindness. Treatment for glaucoma can slow the loss of vision, but it cannot reverse any vision that is already lost.
It’s critical to get annual eye exams if you’re at risk for glaucoma or if you have any loss in vision in order to get the proper treatment.
- Medication or eye drops. Prescription eye drops can reduce fluid and increase drainage to help lower eye pressure. There are different options for eye drops, and they will most likely have to be used daily to treat glaucoma.
- Laser treatment. Laser treatment helps to improve drainage. The effects from this can last up to five years, but the timeframe is not guaranteed.
- Surgery. Surgery is another option for those with glaucoma. Surgery can achieve the best eye pressure control quicker than medication or laser can.
Learn About Glaucoma
Saber Healthcare encourages you to learn more about glaucoma and its symptoms this month. If you notice any symptoms or loss of vision in you or a loved one, try to see your eye doctor as soon as possible.
To learn more about Saber Healthcare and the services we provide, click here.
Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.
- “Glaucoma Awareness Month.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Eye Institute. November 18th, 2021. Accessed December 21st, 2021. https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/outreach-campaigns-and-resources/glaucoma-resources/glaucoma-awareness-month#:~:text=January%20is%20Glaucoma%20Awareness%20Month,t%20know%20they%20have%20it.
- “January is Glaucoma Awareness Month.” Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma.org. January 12th, 2021. Accessed December 21st, 2021. https://www.glaucoma.org/news/glaucoma-awareness-month.php.
- “Glaucoma.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. October 23rd, 2020. Accessed December 22nd, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839.
- “Types of Glaucoma.” Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma.org. June 2nd, 2020. Accessed December 22nd, 2021. https://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/types-of-glaucoma.php.
- Holland, Kimberly. “Glaucoma.” Healthline Media, healthline.com. March 31st, 2017. Accessed December 22nd, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/glaucoma.
- Hecht, Marjorie. “Open-Angle Glaucoma.” Healthline Media, healthline.com. November 26th, 2018. Accessed December 22nd, 2021. https://www.healthline.com/health/open-angle-glaucoma.
- Boyd, Kierstan. “10 Things To Do Today To Prevent Vision Loss From Glaucoma.” American Academy of Ophthalmology, aao.org. February 13th, 2020. Accessed December 22nd, 2021. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/easy-steps-to-prevent-vision-loss-from-glaucoma.
- Seltman, Whitney. “Glaucoma.” WebMD, webmd.com. December 8th, 2020. Accessed December 22nd, 2021. https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/glaucoma-eyes.
- “Glaucoma.” Cleveland Clinic, my.clevelandclinic.org. November 5th, 2020. Accessed December 22nd, 2021. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/4212-glaucoma.