Looking at Glaucoma From All Angles

As humans, our sight is incredibly important. Proper vision enables us to drive safely, communicate with others, and carry out most modern day office jobs, among many other things. That’s why it’s important to be aware of and understand conditions that can seriously damage our eyes.

Glaucoma can be serious. In fact, it’s the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60. Thankfully, it can be prevented if you catch it early.

Two Types of Glaucoma

In general, glaucoma is when your eye’s optic nerve is damaged, often because there is a build-up of fluid (called aqueous humor) in your eye. The excess fluid puts too much pressure in your eye, damaging the nerve.

There are two main types of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma (also called narrow-angle glaucoma). The former is gradual and may be difficult to notice. The latter can happen very quickly as an acute attack and it constitutes a medical emergency. Here are some facts about these conditions.

Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma

  • The most common form of glaucoma
  • Happens when the eye doesn’t drain fluid properly
  • Painless
  • Very gradual; no vision changes at first
  • Can be detected early through regular eye exams
  • As it develops, blind spots appear in peripheral vision

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

  • Happens when the iris is too close to the drainage angle of the eye, blocking drainage
  • Can develop gradually with no symptoms
  • Pressure can then rise very suddenly, which is a medical emergency that can cause blindness if not treated immediately

Know the Signs of an Emergency

Left untreated, angle-closure glaucoma can make you go blind. If you notice the following signs and symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist (eye doctor) right away:

  • Sudden blurriness
  • Severe eye pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seeing halos or rainbow rings around lights

Prevent Glaucoma

Preserve your sight by taking steps to prevent glaucoma! Certain people are more at risk than others; if one of the following rings true for you, you may require more frequent eye exams:

  • Age 40 and over
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Asian, Hispanic, or African ethnic background
  • Higher than normal eye pressure
  • Farsightedness or nearsightedness
  • Previous injury to the eye
  • Use of long-term steroid medications
  • Thin corneas and/or thin optic nerves
  • Pre-existing health problems, such as hypertension and diabetes

To further prevent glaucoma, lifestyle adjustments like quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling blood pressure can help.

  • The Glaucoma Research Foundation offers the following guidelines on how often your eyes should get checked:
  • If you’re under age 40, get checked every two to four years. If you have high-risk factors, you may need testing every year or two years.
  • From the age of 40 to 54, get checked out every one to three years.
  • From the age of 55 to 64, get checked every two to four years.
  • Older adults age 65 and older should get examined every six to 12 months.

Treating Glaucoma 

Treatment for glaucoma is typically medication, such as Alphagan® (brimonidine). If you take medication for glaucoma, you may need to see your ophthalmologist every three to six months. Laser and operating room surgical procedures are also potential treatments. When taking medicine for glaucoma, remember to follow your ophthalmologist’s instructions carefully.

DISCLAIMER: The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.