Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases in which a specific pattern of damage to the optic nerve, located in the back of the eye, results in loss of eyesight. Peripheral vision is affected first. However, while loss of sight can be stopped, it can't be reversed, and if Glaucoma is not treated, total blindness can occur over time.
Glaucoma may develop after an eye injury, after eye surgery, from the growth of an eye tumor, or as a complication of a medical condition such as Diabetes. Certain drugs (corticosteroids) may cause Glaucoma when they are used to treat eye inflammation or other diseases. Glaucoma that develops as a result of another condition is called secondary Glaucoma.
Some people are more likely to develop Glaucoma than others. At high risk are African-Americans related to someone with Glaucoma, Caucasians over 50 years old and African Americans over 35, and the very nearsighted.
There are three basic types of Glaucoma. Open-Angle Glaucoma (OAG) is the most common form of Glaucoma in the United States. In this type, the optic nerve is slowly damaged causing gradual loss of vision. Both eyes can be affected at the same time, although one may be affected more than the other. People may experience some loss of eyesight before noticing the condition.
Closed-angle Glaucoma (CAG) is less common, about 10% of all Glaucoma cases in the United States. Symptoms include sudden blurred vision with pain and redness sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. In closed-angle Glaucoma, the colored part of the eye (iris) and the lens block the movement of fluid between the chambers of the eye, causing pressure to build up and the iris to press on the drainage system (trabecular meshwork) of the eye. One type, acute closed-angle Glaucoma, is often an emergency situation and needs immediate medical care to prevent permanent damage to the eye.
Congenital Glaucoma (also called infantile Glaucoma) is a rare form of Glaucoma that is present in some infants at birth or within the first few years of life. Infants with Glaucoma usually have cloudy eyes that are sensitive to light and have excessive tearing. Symptoms may not develop until 6 months to 1 year after birth. If the problem is not detected early and treated, the child may have severe vision loss and may go blind. People between the age of 3 years and young adulthood can develop a similar type of Glaucoma called juvenile Glaucoma.
Early diagnosis and treatment for Glaucoma can prevent serious loss of vision and blindness so it's important that everyone needs to be checked for Glaucoma. And people at high risk for Glaucoma need to be checked by an eye care professional even if they have no symptoms of the condition. Glaucoma is usually treated with medications however laser treatment or surgery is often needed.
Individuals who experience reduced vision can use vision aids, develop a support network, and receive counseling and training to help them cope with their reduced vision and maintain their quality of life as much as possible. Contact your eye care professional for more information.