Glaucoma can occur at any age, but is most common in people over the age of 60. It’s the result of a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve. This damage is caused by a buildup of pressure in the eye.
Vision loss due to glaucoma can’t be recovered, so it’s important to have annual eye exams that test pressure in your eyes. Your optometrist can help you monitor the warning signs of glaucoma. When it’s recognized early, subsequent vision loss can be slowed or prevented. Once diagnosed, you’ll generally need treatment for the rest of your life.
Symptoms of Glaucoma vary, but some of the most common include:
- Severe headache
- Eye pain
- Patchy blind spots in your side (peripheral) or central vision, frequently in both eyes
- Tunnel vision in the advanced stages
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Halos around lights
- Eye redness
Glaucoma has been divided into two distinctive subtypes. They are:
Open-angle glaucoma. This is the most common type of glaucoma. It’s caused by your eye’s drainage canals becoming clogged over time, resulting in increased internal eye pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve. There are typically no warning signs or painful symptoms associated with this type of glaucoma. It develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable sight loss for many years. Most vision loss occurs only in the peripherals. By the time a patient is aware of vision loss, the disease is usually quite advanced. Without proper treatment, glaucoma can lead to blindness.
Angle-closure glaucoma. Also called acute glaucoma or narrow angle glaucoma, this type of glaucoma is much more challenging to treat. The pressure in your eyes rises very quickly with angle-closure glaucoma, causing the outer edge of the iris to bunch up, enlarging to pupil. Treating angle-closure glaucoma is classified as a medical emergency, and usually requires immediate surgery.
There are a variety of environmental and genetic circumstances that can cause glaucoma. These include:
Intrinsic deterioration of the optic nerve. This increases the pressure in your eyes, causing glaucoma.
Blunt or chemical eye injury. While this is less common, it can still cause glaucoma symptoms.
Inflammatory conditions. Acute glaucoma is considered an inflammatory disease and may be exacerbated by increased inflammation.
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, you have a number of options for prevention and treatment. These include:
- Eye drops. These help to reduce inflammation in the eyes.
- Regular exams. Annual eye exams are the best way to catch glaucoma before symptoms become severe enough to result in blindness.
- Laser surgery. Procedures like trabeculoplastys, iridotomys, and cyclophotocoagulations can help increase drainage in the eye and reduce glaucoma symptoms.
- Drainage tubes. In this procedure, your eye surgeon inserts a small tube in your eye to drain excess fluid and lower your eye pressure.
- Minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries (MIGS). These procedures require less immediate postoperative care and have less risk than trabeculectomy or installing a drainage device. They are often combined with cataract surgery. There are a number of MIGS techniques available, and your doctor will discuss which procedure may be right for you.
- Oral medication. Certain oral medications, such as a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, can help reduce eye pressure.
- CBD Oil. Some cannabinoids in experimental studies have demonstrated beneficial in the management of glaucoma and have been shown to help reduce intraocular pressure, and behave as neuroprotectors on retinal ganglion cells.
- Sleep with an elevated head. This can help reduce eye pressure.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Regular exercise.
Often, finding the right treatment takes trial and error. Treatment of glaucoma can be a difficult process. Talk to your doctor to explore your treatment options if your symptoms are severe.