Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can result in nerve damage and vision loss. It greatly affects the elderly population, and should be taken seriously. The group of eye diseases known as glaucoma occurs due to abnormally high intraocular pressure. In most cases, the high pressures in the patient’s eyes will result in damage to the optic nerve, which can lead to partial or full vision loss. Glaucoma should be taken seriously, because it often goes unrealized by patients. It causes gradual vision loss that many people associate with growing older. However, if not caught early, Glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss. For this reason, it is vital to visit an eye doctor once a year as you get older. With a simple test, they can check your intraocular pressures and determine if you are at risk for developing the condition. If caught early, then treatment can minimize or even prevent nerve damage from occurring and save your vision.
Symptoms and Types
There are many different types of glaucoma; however the two most common types are primary open angle glaucoma and angle closure glaucoma. These two types have completely different symptoms and are treated differently. Primary open angle glaucoma results in gradual loss of your peripheral vision that occurs in both eyes. In the more advanced stages, patients with primary open angle glaucoma will have tunnel vision. Angle closure glaucoma can cause eye pain, nausea, sudden onset of visual disturbance, blurred vision, problems with glares, and eye redness. Both of these types of glaucoma can be classified as primary or secondary conditions. This means, that both can be the only condition present and it can have an unknown cause, or they both can be symptoms of a larger problem, and be the result of an eye injury, medication, or another eye condition.
The causes of glaucoma, usually depends on the type of glaucoma a patient has. Primary open angle glaucoma occurs when the normal drainage angle between the cornea and the iris remains open. This slight opening leads to a blockage in another drainage channel inside of the eye. Overtime, intraocular pressures will rise and damage to your optic nerve can occur. In angle closure glaucoma, the patient’s iris will bulge forward and narrow or block the drainage angle that is formed by the iris and the cornea. As a result, fluid will not be able to adequately exit your eye. Overtime, intraocular pressure will rise.
Both primary open angle glaucoma and angle closure glaucoma can cause vision loss. For this reason, it is vital that people known and understand risk factors for these diseases. Here are a few risk factors that everyone should know:
If you are older than age 60, then you are at a higher risk of developing any type of glaucoma. Anyone over the age of 60 should get regular eye exams from an optometrist. Ethnicity comes into play as well. African-Americans have a higher risk of developing glaucoma at a much younger age, and should begin receiving regular eye exams as early as age 40.
- Elevated Intraocular Pressures
You can easily have elevated intraocular pressure and not have glaucoma. However, if you do regularly have elevated pressures in your eyes, then you could be at risk for developing glaucoma. It is vital that you see an eye doctor regularly, and get your eye pressures under control before they develop into glaucoma.
- Family History
If you have a family history of any type of glaucoma, then you are at a greater risk for developing the disease as well. Glaucoma is genetic, and if you have a strong family history of the condition, then you will definitely need to see an eye doctor regularly to check your intraocular pressures often.
- Medical Conditions
Having diabetes, certain heart diseases, hypothyroidism or high blood pressure can greatly increase your risk for developing glaucoma. If you have any of these conditions, then it is essential that you get regular eye exams.
The main complication of glaucoma is blindness. If left untreated, then glaucoma can lead to blind spots in your peripheral vision, tunnel vision or total blindness. Many people, who develop glaucoma, lose their vision gradually, and thus, their condition goes untreated for many years. Overtime, as their vision worsens, they simply believe that they are losing their vision due to their age. For this reason, its vital that as people age, they visit an eye doctor frequently.
The good news is that there are reliable treatment plans for glaucoma. The goal of treatment focuses on lowering intraocular pressures so that damage to your optic nerve will not occur. Glaucoma cannot be cured completely; however it can be managed with treatment and regular checkups. The most common treatment for glaucoma is eye drops. Medicated eye drops such as prostaglandins, beta blockers, alpha-adrenergic agonists, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, or cholinergic agents can be prescribed to lower intraocular pressure and relieve the symptoms of glaucoma. Oral medications or eye surgery can also be employed if your condition is severe.
Glaucoma is a serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is a disease that most often affects people over the age of 60. It can come in many forms, but will always cause a rise in intraocular pressures that leads to damage to the optic nerve. Damage to this nerve can cause partial or total blindness in patients with advanced stage glaucoma. For this reason, it is vital for elderly people to visit their eye doctors frequently. It is especially important for those with a family history of any type of glaucoma or other risk factors associated with this disease. If you or your elderly loved one has noticed a slight or a dramatic change in vision, then it is essential that you visit an eye doctor as soon as possible. If caught early, then glaucoma can be treated with simple eye drops and oral medications, and optic nerve damage may be avoided. However, if it is caught late, then the damage may have already occurred, and it may be too late to avoid blindness.
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