Glaucoma: Eyes Under Pressure
Human eyesight is an incredibly complex system, and a problem anywhere along the way can lead to seriously compromised vision.
One such problem is glaucoma, a group of eye conditions that affect millions of people in the world, making it the second most common cause of vision loss and blindness. In most cases, glaucoma is the result of damage to the optic nerve from increased pressure in the eye.
Intra ocular Pressure: A Delicate Balance
The human eye is filled with fluid — aqueous humor in the front chambers, vitreous humor in the larger rear chamber behind the lens. In a healthy eye, the pressure of this fluid remains within a safe range because the amount of aqueous humor being produced is roughly equal to the amount flowing out through the pupil. In an eye with glaucoma, this drainage system does not work the way it should.
2 Common Types Of Glaucoma
Open-angle glaucoma, which comes on very gradually (over the course of years) and accounts for 90% of glaucoma cases. The drainage canals of the eye become clogged, stopping the fluid from draining effectively and causing the pressure to build. Because this process is so slow and vision isn’t noticeably affected until late in the disease, regular comprehensive eye exams are essential for catching it early on and halting its progress.
The second most common type of glaucoma is angle-closure glaucoma. Unlike the gradual progression of open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma happens very suddenly, when the iris (the colorful circular muscle that regulates the amount of light that comes in through the pupil) actually blocks the drainage canals. This tends to come with a variety of symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, eye pain, very blurred vision, and rainbows around lights.
Common Risk Factors
While everyone has some risk of developing glaucoma, certain factors can make it more likely. Glaucoma is far more common in people over 60.
A major risk factor for glaucoma is heredity. Studies estimate that over half of glaucoma cases are familial. Someone with a sibling who has glaucoma is ten times more likely to develop it than someone who doesn’t. Other risk factors include eye injury and steroid use.
Why Early Diagnosis Matters
Vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible and there is currently no cure for the disease, but medication and/or surgery can halt its progress as long as it is diagnosed in time. The key to early diagnosis is regular eye exams, especially for those with a high risk of developing the condition. Always be on the watch for signs that your eyesight is changing. If you notice anything different about your vision, such as blurred vision, blind spots, halo effects around lights, increased difficulty reading or driving, or other changes, immediately book an appointment with one of our optometrists.
If you experience symptoms like bright flashes or a sudden increase in the number of floaters you see, make an immediate appointment with an ophthalmologist. These are symptoms of retinal detachment, and quick treatment can mean the difference between recovery and permanent vision loss in that eye.
Regular eye exams can help prevent up to 95 percent of diabetes-related vision loss and are crucial to diagnosing and slowing the progress of other sight-threatening conditions. This is why it’s so important to schedule yearly eye exams as we grow older, and to come in immediately if we ever notice a change in our eyesight.
Some of the tests that will be done during your annual eye exam:-
Tonometry test. This is the eye pressure test, which checks intraocular pressure to see whether a patient is at risk of glaucoma.
Visual field tests. These tests detect blind spots and problems with peripheral vision by examining the full horizontal and vertical range and sensitivity of the patient’s vision. The results can indicate glaucoma, and they can also help catch brain conditions like strokes and tumors!
Dilated retinal exams. The optometrist uses special eyedrops to dilate the pupil, making it easier to see the back of the eye to check for problems like diabetic retinopathy.
Slit lamp exams. Also called a biomicroscopy, this exam lets the doctor examine the eye microscopically using eye drops, a low-powered microscope, and a bright slit lamp.
Refraction exams. Almost anyone who has had an eye exam has had a refraction exam, which is the basic exam that determines what prescription a person needs for contacts or glasses. These are especially important as we age and begin to develop presbyopia (blurred close vision caused by the decreased flexibility of the eyes’ lenses).
Outside of the optometrist’s office, you can also look after your vision by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Staying active and eating healthy foods will help your eyes stay in good shape, and it will also make it easier to manage conditions that impact eye health, like diabetes and glaucoma.
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