What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name for several eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve, which acts as a messenger for information between the eye and the brain, is in the back of the eye. When the nerve is damaged, a loss of vision is likely to occur. Initially, people with glaucoma will lose their peripheral (side) vision. If the disease remains untreated, vision loss will likely get worse. This can lead to total blindness over time.
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The two basic glaucoma types
Glaucoma often presents with no symptoms to warn you. Detecting and treating the disease early is important to prevent blindness. Treatments are available and early detection is critical.
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease. The risk of developing open-angle glaucoma increases with age. It has no symptoms in its early stages and vision is normal. As the optic nerve becomes more damaged, blank spots begin to appear in your field of vision. Patients can experience:
- Gradual loss of side or peripheral vision
- An inability to adjust the eye to darkened rooms
- Rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights
Closed-angle glaucoma (also called angle-closure glaucoma) is more rapid symptoms. Patients may experience:
- Blurred vision
- Severe eye pain
- Rainbow-colored halos around lights
A trabeculectomy is an operation performed on patients with glaucoma in whom the disease is progressing despite the current level of medical treatment. Most cases of glaucoma can be controlled with one or more medications. However, some patients will require surgery to reduce the pressure in your eye to a safe level. Look below to find a step-by-step trabeculectomy with a seton valve.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
Regular medical eye exams can help prevent unnecessary vision loss. People who are at a greater risk for glaucoma usually have the following conditions:
- Age: You’re at higher risk if you’re older than 40.
- Ethnic Background: Certain ethnicities, such as African-Americans, are at risk of developing the disease at a younger age and are more likely to experience permanent blindness as a result.
- Family History: Glaucoma may have a genetic link; therefore, if you have a family history, you are at a greater risk of developing the condition.
- Medical Conditions: Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism are several conditions that may increase the risk of developing this disease.
- Other Eye Conditions: Eye tumors, eye inflammation, lens dislocation and retinal detachment could increase the risk of glaucoma. Certain types of eye surgery and being nearsighted or farsighted may also increase your risk.
- Injury: Increased eye pressure is sometimes a result of severe eye injuries; therefore, trauma can increase the risk of developing this disease.
- Long-term Corticosteroid Use: Corticosteroid medications (e.g. some eye drops) over a long period of time may increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
Early Detection is Key
Comprehensive eye exams are necessary to diagnose glaucoma. Your ophthalmologist will measure your eye pressure, dilate your pupils to evaluate your optic nerve and perform a visual field test to measure your side vision.
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