Glaucoma

Overview

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve and is one of the main causes of blindness in the developed world. This group of diseases can be painful or can silently steal vision with few noticeable symptoms. Many times increasing intraocular pressure is to blame, but this is not always the case. Treatment for glaucoma is more effective when the condition is caught in its early stages, so regular eye exams should be scheduled to maintain eye health.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

There are two main classifications of glaucoma: primary open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma. Symptoms vary based on the type. Open-angle glaucoma causes no symptoms early-on. This sight-stealing condition is progressive, and patients very gradually lose vision. Most often, patients do not notice the condition until tunnel vision develops or there is advanced loss of sight. Acute angle-closure glaucoma, on the other hand, is more likely to be treated early because symptoms are more noticeable. This form of the condition is painful, and patients notice eye pain and visual changes such as blurred vision, halos or disturbances. Nausea or vomiting may accompany the eye pain, and eyes can appear red and inflamed.

A number of tests can help determine the presence of glaucoma and the extent of any damage. The simplest test is measuring intraocular pressure. This test is useful because glaucoma often accompanies a rise in pressure within the eye. The doctor will also check the optic nerve for damage. Using bright light and magnification, the doctor can peer through the pupil to examine the optic nerve at the back of the eye. Visual acuity and peripheral vision will also be tested during the exam. Imaging tests and tests to inspect the drainage angle of the eye can help distinguish open-angle from angle-closure glaucoma.

Causes

Glaucoma can be either primary or secondary. Primary glaucoma does not have a known cause, but secondary glaucoma can be linked to other conditions such as diabetes, cataracts, eye injury or inflammation. In secondary glaucoma, symptoms of glaucoma are present in addition to the symptoms of the co-existing condition. Continue reading for Prevention and Treatment information . . .

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