Glaucoma refers to a series of eye conditions that affect vision and can cause blindness if left untreated. It is most common in those who are over 40 and is associated with elevated pressure in the eye (intraocular). It is commonly associated with damage to the optic nerve that is caused by a high pressure in the eye. This is due to a build up of fluid in the eye as fluid takes too long to drain correctly, this is an example of open angle glaucoma. Another risk factor for glaucoma is high blood pressure which can affect and elevate ocular blood pressure as a side effect.
At first, glaucoma presents with no symptoms and vision appears to be normal. However, if left untreated it can lead to loss of peripheral vision (vision to the side), over time central vision can also decline leading to very limited vision and blindness.
There are two types of glaucoma:
- Open angle glaucoma – The eye drainage system begins to falter and results in a build up of fluid and pressure in the eye.
- Closed angle glaucoma – When the iris in the eye is close to the drainage area and blocks the draining angle. When the drain becomes completely blocked eye pressure rises rapidly and it is classified an emergency.
Vision loss cannot be recovered with glaucoma, so it is vital that it is caught early. Due to the lack of symptoms in the early stages, it is incredibly difficult to detect and necessitates regular visits to an ophthalmologist or optician.
- Open angle – Loss of peripheral vision, tunnel vision and patchy spots.
- Close angle – Eye pain, nausea, vomiting, headaches, severe eye pain, blurry vision, rainbow coloured rings or halos around lights.
The cause of primary glaucoma is unknown. However, secondary glaucoma may be due to pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, cancerous tumors, advanced cataract or inflammation.
There are a number of risk factors associated with glaucoma, which include:
- Old Age
- Ethnic Background – East Asians/African Americans/those of Hispanic descent are more likely to develop glaucoma.
- Myopia (short-sightedness)
- Eye surgeries and other eye conditions.