Living 50 Plus

  • img1
  • img1
  • img1

Glaucoma, a common but treatable disease

Many people expect some moderate loss of visual acuity as they age. Though some people can go a lifetime with 20/20 vision, many do need to get prescription eyeglasses as they age or get stronger prescriptions if they already wear glasses.

Glaucoma is one of the more common vision issues men and women face as they age. Though anyone, including newborn babies, can get glaucoma, older people are at a greater risk. That's important for men and women to know, as the Glaucoma Research Foundation notes that glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, and roughly 10 percent of people who receive proper treatment will still experience loss of vision. Because it is so prevalent, glaucoma is something men and women should familiarize themselves with so they're more equipped to recognize its symptoms and seek treatment, which is highly effective, as soon as possible.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is not a single disease but the name used to refer to a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. Located in the back of the eye, the optic nerve is responsible for carrying information from the eye to the brain. Damage to the optic nerve can eventually lead to loss of vision.

How does glaucoma develop?

One of the first things to happen when a person gets glaucoma is the loss of peripheral vision. This is enough to motivate many people to visit their eye doctor, who will then develop a course of treatment to restore vision. Those who experience a loss of peripheral vision but do not seek treatment may notice their overall vision is worsening, and total blindness can result.

Are all glaucomas the same?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases, and not all glaucomas are the same. There are three types of glaucomas, and each has its own set of symptoms.

* Open-angle glaucoma: The most common form of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve is gradually damaged. Eyesight will be slowly lost, and one eye may be more affected than the other.

* Closed-angle glaucoma: When a person has closed-angle glaucoma, which is somewhat rare, the iris and the lens block the movement of fluid between the chambers of the eye, causing pressure to build up as the iris presses on the eye's drainage system.

* Congenital glaucoma: Congenital glaucoma is rare and most often affects infants at birth. Children and young adults can also get congenital glaucoma, though such instances are also rare.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

The symptoms of glaucoma vary depending on the type. Vision loss is the only noticeable symptom of open-angle glaucoma, and that vision loss is likely to affect peripheral vision, which may not be noticeable until it's severe because the healthy eye will make up for the loss. By the time sharpness of vision is affected, significant vision loss has likely occurred.

Closed-angle glaucoma may cause mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. When symptoms do appear, they tend to do so in short periods that occur in the evening and disappear by morning. In some instances, symptoms can be severe and will require immediate medical attention. These symptoms include sudden and severe blurring of vision; severe pain, either in the eye itself or the surrounding areas; redness of the eye; nausea and vomiting; and possibly colored halos around lights.

Symptoms of congenital glaucoma may be present at birth or develop as a child becomes a toddler. These symptoms may include watery eyes, sensitivity to light, an eye or eyes that appear cloudy and eyes that appear larger than normal because the eyeballs have enlarged due to pressure. A child may also be experiencing congenital glaucoma if he or she is frequently rubbing his or her eyes or squinting or keeping his or her eyes closed much of the time.

More information on glaucoma is available at www.glaucoma.org.