Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss – often without warning and symptoms. Like a cable wire, the optic nerve is responsible for carrying the images we see to the brain. Damage to the optic nerve can occur when the pressure within the eye increases, usually due to a build-up of aqueous fluid inside the eye. This leads to the development of blind spots in our field of vision. However, damage may occur without elevation of the intra-ocular pressure. Conversely, the pressure may at times be elevated without damaging the optic nerve. This is a condition known as Ocular Hypertension. Blind spots in the field of vision usually go undetected by the individual until the optic nerve is significantly damaged and a great loss of peripheral or central vision has occurred. A Visual Field evaluation can detect glaucomatous damage in its very early stages. If the disease is untreated the optic nerve may be damaged to a point that irreversible blindness will result.
Glaucoma, often called the “sneak thief of sight” because it usually has no symptoms, affects about 3 million Americans and 67 million people worldwide. It is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, particularly among the elderly population.
Types of Glaucoma
Not every type of Glaucoma is the same or will have the same impact on your life. If you have been diagnosed with Glaucoma please make sure to familiarize yourself with the different types of glaucoma listed below. The doctors at Glaucoma-Cataract Consultants are happy to provide additional information regarding your specific type of glaucoma and what this will mean to your life.
1. Chronic open-angle glaucoma:
This is the most common type of glaucoma. The drainage angle, where the fluids in the eye drain, is open, but working less efficiently. The inability to drain causes pressure within the eye to rise, which results in a gradual loss of side-vision. This can be likened to an air filter, which gathers dust over time & eventually becomes too laden with dust to work properly.
2. Angle-closure glaucoma:
This type of glaucoma occurs when the drainage angle is completely blocked, often by the iris. This prevents any fluid to drain from the eye & causes the pressure within the eye to suddenly rise. This extreme rise in pressure causes blurred vision, headaches, severe eye pain as well as the appearance of halos around lights.
3. Chronic angle-closure glaucoma:
This is painless and more gradual closing of the drainage angle, which occurs most frequently in people of African or Asian descent.
4. Secondary Glaucoma:
This type of glaucoma progresses very much like chronic open-angle glaucoma. It occurs when scar tissue blocks the drainage angle. The first symptom is loss of side-vision.
5. Congenital Glaucoma:
This is a birth defect, which affects the drainage angle. To prevent blindness, this condition must be treated shortly after birth. Symptoms include enlarged eyes, a cloudy cornea, light sensitivity and excessive tearing.
Impact On Your Life
Glaucoma can be extremely problematic to your vision, and it is the second-leading cause of blindness in the U.S. Glaucoma now needs to be taken seriously. Once you have been diagnosed with glaucoma you will need to make simple lifestyle changes in order manage your disease. If you have been diagnosed at an early point the eye doctor will then make a suggested treatment protocol based on taking medication to control intraocular pressure. Once the treatment protocol for medications is administered patients can typically return to a normal life. Taking medication will be critical or the disease can progress. Glaucoma patients typically struggle with integrating all of the medicating times into one day. Successful patients often try to take the medicine or drops at times such as waking, sleep time, or meals and snacks.
Although patients can be depressed at the onset of this disease it is important to not be consumed with the negative aspects. This disease does not have to limit your lifestyle. Continue with regular activities and try not be consumed with the emotional aspects of having a disease. If you have a business start new initiatives, if you play golf, go hit some golf balls or if you enjoy cooking, try some new recipes. There may some more physical activities such as athletics or driving that will become hard to do. It is common for some glaucoma patients to experience light sensitivity or specific problems with light glare. Because driving can endanger others it is important to discuss this matter with your eye doctor.
Please feel free to consult with our staff or the dedicated surgeons at Glaucoma-Cataract Consultants. Because we specialize in treating and managing this disease we have a unique perspective and opportunity to help our patients live with glaucoma.
There are many individuals stepping up to help the glaucoma research initiatives. After the sports world was shocked with the blindness of sudden MVP baseball star more awareness of this disease has emerged. The eye care community, including the Glaucoma Research Foundation, surges forward in an effort to find better methods to treat glaucoma. Someday there may even be a cure for this disease.