What Are The Symptoms Of Glaucoma?

What is glaucoma? How does it form?

The optic nerve carries images we see to the brain. It is like a telephone line containing about 1.2 million wires. When this optic nerve is damaged, it is a condition known as glaucoma, which can damage nerve fibers, causing blind spots to develop.

What causes glaucoma?

When pressure builds up in the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP), the clear liquid called the aqueous humor, which normally flows in and out of the eye, is prevented from draining properly. The resulting increase in pressure within the eye can damage the optic nerve. As optic nerve fibers are damaged by glaucoma, small blind spots may begin to develop, usually in the side-or peripheral-vision. Many people don't notice the blind spots until significant optic nerve damage has already occurred. If the entire nerve is destroyed, blindness results.

Types of glaucoma

Depending on the type of glaucoma, the pressure can occur in different ways.

a.. Open-angle glaucoma - this is the most common form of glaucoma. In this type, the aqueous, or fluid, that normally flows through the pupil into the anterior chamber (the front section of the eye's interior) cannot get through the trabecular meshwork (the eye's filtration area) to the normal drainage canals. This causes intraocular pressure, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. Impaired visions is usually the first symptom most people notice.

b.. Acute angle-closure glaucoma - this does produce noticeable symptoms. In this type, there is a rapid buildup of intraocular pressure, which may cause any of the following:

a.. blurred vision

b.. severe eye pain

c.. headache

d.. haloes (which may appear as rainbows) around lights

e.. nausea and vomiting

This form of the disease is a rare, but serious. Anyone with these symptoms should call an ophthalmologist quickly. Gone untreated, blindness can result.

a.. Chronic angle-closure glaucoma - like open-angle glaucoma, this one may cause vision damage without symptoms. Although this type is unusual, people of Asian or Eskimo ancestry are at higher risk of developing it. As with other forms of glaucoma, age and family history are also risk factors, and the problem seems to occur in older women more often than others.

Both open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma can be primary or secondary. A primary condition is one that cannot be attributed to any known cause. A secondary condition can be traced to another cause, such as previous injury or illness.

a.. "Normal (or low) tension" glaucoma - this is an unusual and poorly understood form of the disease. In this type, the optic nerve is damaged even though the patient's intraocular pressure is consistently within a range usually considered normal.

b.. Childhood glaucoma - this is rare, and starts in infancy, childhood or adolescence. Like open-angle glaucoma, there are few, if any, symptoms in the early stage, and blindness can result if it is left untreated. Like most types of glaucoma, this type is believed to have a hereditary component.

c.. Congenital glaucoma - this is a type of childhood glaucoma that usually appears soon after birth, although it can become occur later within the first year. Unlike other childhood glaucomas, congenital glaucoma frequently has noticeable signs, such as tearing, light sensitivity, and cloudiness of the cornea. It is more common in boys, and can affect one or both eyes.

If you have one or more risk factors for glaucoma, an ophthalmological exam may reveal that you are a glaucoma suspect. This can include elevated intraocular pressure, family history, ethnic background, older age, optic nerve appearance, and other factors.

Elevated IOP is sometimes called ocular hypertension. This means that your intraocular pressure is higher than what is considered "normal." This does not mean you have glaucoma, but does suggest that you are at increased risk, and should probably have frequent eye examinations. Sometimes an ophthalmologist will recommend medication to lower IOP.

Treatment for glaucoma may include medication and/or surgery.

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