Glaucoma is a term used for eye disorders that damage the optic nerve. It usually occurs due to fluid buildup in the eye, a leading cause of vision loss. The extra fluid increases pressure on the eye (intraocular pressure), gradually causing optic nerve damage. Some people develop glaucoma even with normal IOP (eye pressure). If not treated, the disease can lead to irreversible vision loss.
Most patients develop glaucoma in both eyes, but the condition may worsen in one eye. Those with open-angle glaucoma can experience moderate or severe damage in one eye, while the other eye may have mild symptoms. The relatively common disease is usually age-related and affects about three million Americans.
Sometimes, the cause of glaucoma may be unknown. However, some factors contribute to the condition. Intraocular eye pressure (IOP) is a major factor in developing the disease. The eyes produce aqueous humor, a fluid that provides nourishment.
In healthy eyes, the fluid drains through canals between the iris and cornea. When an individual has glaucoma, there is resistance in the drainage canals. It causes fluid to build up, putting pressure on the eye. The elevated pressure can damage the optic nerve.
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type, affecting almost 90% of those who develop the condition. It occurs due to buildup in the eye drainage canals, causing pressure on the optic nerve.
The condition does not show symptoms in the early stages. The other types are acute angle-closure glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma, and congenital glaucoma. Some babies are born with poorly-formed drainage canals.
There are no early symptoms for some types of glaucoma. Vision changes occur gradually, making it difficult to associate them with glaucoma. People with open-angle glaucoma may not have noticeable symptoms. Those with closed-angle glaucoma may experience sudden symptoms, including:
Anyone can develop glaucoma, with the risk increasing with age. Some people have a higher chance of developing the disease than others. Risk factors for the disease include:
If untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss. Treatment can help slow the progression of the disease. It can prevent additional vision loss but cannot restore lost vision. It is crucial to visit an eye doctor if you experience eye pain, vision changes, or severe headaches.
Doctors may recommend prescription eye drops to treat glaucoma. You may need to use the medications daily for life. Other treatment options include laser therapy and surgery to reduce eye pressure. There is no cure for glaucoma, but treatment can help manage the existing symptoms and stop the worsening of vision.
For more on understanding glaucoma, the symptoms, causes, and treatment options, visit North Georgia Eye Care at our office in Winder, Georgia. Call (770) 867-1913 to book an appointment today.