Quick Facts on Glaucoma
- One of every 50 adults over the age of 50 have glaucoma; for those over 80, 1 in 6 have it.
- Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world.
- People with an African-American descent, medical conditions like diabetes, or with a family history are at a higher risk and can contract the disease at an earlier age.
- If you are over the age of 40, you should have an eye exam at least once every two years. If you are at a higher risk, you should have an eye exam once a year.
Aqueous humor is a fluid that flows between your cornea and the iris of your eye. Among other things, this fluid maintains the intraocular pressure of your eye and provides essential nutrients to the eye. This fluid leaves the eye from a mesh-like canal, but when the canal is blocked or damaged, the fluid begins to build up and cause pressure within the eye. This pressure can't be felt and doesn’t cause damage quickly so it is usually only detected when the disease has moderately advanced.
Blindness occurs when glaucoma damages your optic nerve – the nerve that transmits images from your eye to your brain. If glaucoma is not treated and causes this damage, it cannot be reversed.
Usually patients suffering from glaucoma have the disease because they inherited it. However, injury (chemical or physical) to the eye, blockage of blood vessels, certain medical conditions, or even severe eye infection can sometimes cause glaucoma.
Types of Glaucoma
- Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
- Angle Closure Glaucoma
- Primary Congenital Glaucoma
Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
When your eye’s drainage canals are gradually blocked over time, which prevents aqueous humor from leaving the eye, you are suffering from primary open-angle glaucoma. About three million Americans suffer from this type of glaucoma, making it the most common form of this disease. Open angle glaucoma usually responds well to medication or laser treatment if treated early enough, but may require glaucoma surgery to control the pressure in more advanced cases.
Angle Closure Glaucoma
In about 1% of patients, the structure of the front of the eye is such that the drainage canals can become suddenly blocked or pinched. Angle closure glaucoma happens rather quickly. Symptoms range from headaches, eye pain, nausea, blurred or cloudy vision, red eye, or even feeling as if your eye is swollen. These symptoms come from extremely high pressure which needs to be treated right away to prevent major loss of eyesight.