Glaucoma is a condition that damages the optic nerve in the eye – vital for optimal vision – often due to abnormally high pressure in the eyes.
It is one of the main causes of blindness in people over the age of 60. It can occur at any age but is more common in adults.
Many forms of glaucoma have no warning signs. The effect is so gradual that one may not notice a change in vision until the disease is at an advanced stage.
Since vision loss from glaucoma cannot be restored, it is important to have a regular eye pressure exam so that a diagnosis can be made early on and treated appropriately. If glaucoma is recognized early, vision loss can be slowed or avoided. If the condition persists, the patient may usually need treatment for the rest of their life.
There are several types of glaucoma, like open-angle glaucoma, narrow-angle glaucoma, normal tension glaucoma, childhood glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma and angular recession glaucoma (after trauma), etc.
The signs and symptoms of glaucoma vary depending on the type and stage of the disease.
For example, in open-angle glaucoma, symptoms include patchy blind spots in the lateral periphery of vision, or central or tunnel vision in the advanced stages.
In acute angle-closure glaucoma, symptoms include severe headache, eye pain, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, halos around lights, or redness of the eyes.
Since chronic forms of glaucoma can damage vision before any signs or symptoms appear, be aware of these risk factors: being over 60, having a family history of glaucoma, having certain medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia -cellular anemia, previous eye damage and taking corticosteroid drugs, especially eye drops, for an extended period.
Steps that can help detect glaucoma in its early stages include: regular comprehensive examinations by an ophthalmologist, knowing the family’s eye health history, and taking prescribed eye drops regularly if you have glaucoma.
Untreated glaucoma will eventually lead to blindness. Thus, regular eye examinations by a specialist – at least once every six months – are necessary.