Glaucoma is the leading cause of incurable blindness around the world. In 2010, 60.5 million people had the disease globally, including over 3 million people in the U.S. Since the effects of this disease can be extensive, it’s helpful to know the facts about glaucoma and how to assess your risk.
Understanding the Disease
There are several different types of glaucoma, which are considered to be a group of diseases that result in damage to the optic nerve. Open-angle refers to the most common type, caused at least in-part by high pressure within the eye. When no increase in pressure occurs, the condition is known as “low tension.” The angle-closure type refers to a narrowing of the angle between the cornea and the iris. Anyone can develop this eye disease regardless of age, and damage usually occurs in both eyes at the same time.
Risk Factors and Causes
In a healthy eye, the interior fluid, called the aqueous humor, flows continually in and out. An obstruction in this flow due to high pressure or a structural abnormality is the most common cause of vision loss. Certain groups are at higher risk for developing symptoms:
• All individuals over age 60
• African-Americans over age 40
• People with a genetic predisposition
• Diabetes patients
Rarer causes include previous eye injury or trauma, blocked blood vessels in the eye, ocular inflammation, serious eye infections or complications from surgery.
One of the more unsettling glaucoma facts is the disease can present without symptoms. The first thing most people notice is a loss of peripheral vision. Other changes may occur and should be examined by an eye doctor:
• “Hazy” appearance to the eye
• Development of “halos” around objects
• Continued vision loss
• Tunnel vision
• Unexplained redness or pain in the eyes
There are no proven ways to prevent development of this eye disease, but focusing on a healthy lifestyle can promote good vision in general. Replacing processed foods and excess saturated fats with whole foods, eating more plant-based meals and exercising regularly are all beneficial for overall well-being. To prevent injuries or trauma, always use protective eyewear when working with dangerous materials. Stress can also play a role, making stress reduction techniques such as breathing exercises, stretching and prayer an important part of your health regimen.
If symptoms develop, your eye doctor may recommend one or more common forms of treatment:
• Eye drops to reduce fluid volume or improve flow
• Laser surgery to correct problems with fluid buildup
• Trabeculectomy, a microsurgery procedure to address obstructions and create a new channel through which fluid can move
You may receive a single treatment or a combination of treatments to manage symptoms. Surgical procedures and their associated risks should be discussed with an eye surgeon before making a final decision.
Although glaucoma is a disease anyone can get, following a healthy lifestyle and seeing your eye doctor regularly can help reduce your risk. Early detection and treatment make the disease easier to manage and can preserve as much of your vision as possible.
Want to learn more about your eye health?
CorrectVision Laser Institute is one of Florida’s most advanced practices for vision impairments with extensive experience in LASIK. Our goal is to open your eyes to the world of great vision by offering unparalleled expertise and the most advanced technology available.
Contact us today for a consultation with one of our South Florida eye specialists, located in Hollywood, Weston and Pembroke Pines!