Beware of Blindness! A Few Things to Know about Glaucoma

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One of the leading causes of irreversible blindness, Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. Glaucoma can occur in both eyes or just one eye. Most people with glaucoma do not even know they have it because symptoms are slow to appear. However, if treated properly, most people with glaucoma are able to keep their vision.

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Glaucoma is caused by increased pressure inside the eye. Normally, the fluid inside your eye, aqueous humor, drains out of the eye through a spongy tissue called the trabecular meshwork. When this pathway gets blocked or the eye produces too much fluid, pressure builds causing vision loss. Normal eye pressure varies from person to person, so there is no standard eye pressure by which to measure Glaucoma risk. Scientists are not exactly sure what causes high pressure, although it can be inherited and is commonly linked to old age and diabetes. People of certain descents such as Irish, African American, or Scandinavian are also more likely to get glaucoma. For example, people of Japanese descent have a higher risk of normal-tension glaucoma, a type of glaucoma that occurs in people with normal eye pressure. Other causes include chemical injury to the eye, infection, and blocked blood vessels.

Glaucoma diagnosis tests are usually administered by an eye doctor. Using eye drops, they dilate the pupils and check the optic nerve for signs of glaucoma. They also perform a tonometry, a test that checks your eye pressure. A visual field test may also be performed to evaluate peripheral vision. Doctors have a few different ways of treating Glaucoma. Prescription eye drops are the most common solution, working to lower eye pressure. Doctors may also use laser treatment to drain fluid from the eye, a procedure that can be performed in the office. The most serious intervention is surgery, which, like laser treatment, aims to drain fluid from the eye in order to decrease eye pressure.

There are a few things you can do if you want to decrease your risk of Glaucoma. If you are in a high risk group, it is important to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam in order to catch the disease as early as possible. Even if you are not high risk, people over the age of 40 should also consider getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam. To find out if Glaucoma runs in your family, talk to your relatives about their vision and health. Finally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, eating well, and staying active can all help decrease the likelihood of vision loss from Glaucoma. Don’t let Glaucoma blind your vision!

— Chaya Tong