According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness. Unlike many other common causes of blindness, glaucoma does not only affect aging eyes: Approximately 1 in every 10,000 infants is born with glaucoma. Whether you have been recently diagnosed with a form of glaucoma, know someone who has been diagnosed, or are at risk for developing glaucoma, here is what you need to know about the treatment of early-stage glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a categorical name for several eye conditions which, over time, damage the optic nerve, causing loss of vision. Typically, this happens due to increased pressure in the eye.
There are three main types of glaucoma:
- Open-Angle Glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma, occurs when the eye’s drainage canals are blocked over time, raising the inner eye pressure.
- Angle-Closure Glaucoma occurs when the iris is not wide enough and the edges bunch over the eye’s drainage controls when the pupil dilates quickly.
- Normal-Tension Glaucoma, the rarest variation of glaucoma, causes damage to the optic nerve in spite of normal or low amount of pressure in the eye.
Untreated glaucoma can cause irreversible loss of vision, so it is vital that glaucoma be detected and treated as early as possible.
Talking to Your Doctor about Glaucoma
If you are in one of the demographics at higher risk for glaucoma, you should talk to your doctor about glaucoma detection and prevention even if you have not been diagnosed. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, these groups are at increased risk of glaucoma:
- African Americans. The occurrence rate of glaucoma among African Americas is approximately six times higher than the occurrence rate among Caucasians.
- Individuals over 60, especially of Hispanic descent. Glaucoma affects about 2.3 million Americans over the age of 40, with a high percentage of cases occurring in individuals over 60.
- Individuals with a family history of Glaucoma. Primary-angle glaucoma, the most common form, is hereditary.
- Asians. Asians are a higher risk for angle-closure glaucoma. Japanese individuals have the highest risk rate for normal-tension glaucoma, the rarest variation.
- Steroid users. In 1997, a study performed by the Journal of American Medical Association linked high doses of steroids used to control asthma to the development of glaucoma.
- Individuals who have suffered an eye injury. Injuries which bruise or penetrate the eye increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
Because those affected by glaucoma may not develop symptoms until the condition has advanced, it is vital that you have an eye exam every one-to-three years, especially if you fall under any of these categories. After age 55, it is recommended that you increase the rate of your eye exams to one every two years, and to one every six to 12 months after age 65.
Once diagnosed with glaucoma, your doctor will likely prescribe eye drops to help stabilize the pressure in your eyes.
There are several types of eye drops used for the treatment of glaucoma, including prostaglandin analogs, which increase the fluid outflow in the eye; beta blockers, which decrease the production of fluid; and alpha antagonists, which decrease fluid production while also increasing drainage.
These medicated eye drops may cause changes in the color of your eyes or in eyelash growth. If you experience headaches, eye irritation, blurred vision, or redness, consult with your doctor.
If your glaucoma becomes advanced, or the medication is not working as effectively as it should, talk to your doctor about laser and surgical procedures to repair the glaucoma.
Scheduled eye exams are your best defense against glaucoma. Most eye clinics, such as Eyeconx in Calgary, have the equipment and experience necessary to diagnose glaucoma. Early detection is essential to the prevention of vision loss due to glaucoma. If you have not had an eye exam in a few years, maybe it’s time to schedule one.
Studies have also shown that moderate exercise can help maintain your overall health and prevent the development of glaucoma. Because glaucoma can be caused by eye injury, it is also important to wear protective eyewear while playing sports or working with chemicals or materials which could damage your eyes.
While glaucoma is a serious eye condition, early detection and proper treatment can prevent vision loss. If you are at risk for glaucoma or have be recently diagnosed, discuss your options and prognosis with your eye care provider.