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How Do I Know if I’m at Risk for Glaucoma?

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you use your full range of senses to interact with the world and each contributes to the richness of your life experience. However, sight is the sense that most people rely on the most. According to a report by the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, the majority of people are more afraid of losing their sight than all others.

If you’re in the majority and would like to keep your eyesight for the length of your life, it’s smart to know about one of the leading causes of blindness – glaucoma. This article explores the primary causes of the condition, and shares glaucoma symptoms and glaucoma causes to help you maintain your sight for as long as possible.

How is glaucoma caused?

The Glaucoma Research Foundation estimates that three million individuals have this condition, which is characterized by damage to the optic nerve. There are several ways that the optic nerve can be damaged – the most common is when internal pressure builds up within the eyeball.

The most common types of glaucoma are open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma which are caused by pressure within the eyeball.

Open-angle glaucoma

The open-angle condition is typified by a gradual increase in pressure that increasingly impacts the optic nerve, leading to damage and possibly loss of sight. This type is usually painless and glaucoma symptoms include loss of peripheral vision and tunnel vision in advanced cases.

Angle-closure glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma is the second most common form and is characterized by quickly rising pressure, which can limit how far the iris can open. Because pressure rises quickly, you may feel pain in the eye, there may be a sudden onset of visual disturbance or your stomach may be upset.

However, if the pupil is dilated during a sudden rise in eye pressure, it can cause a critical situation that can irreversibly damage the eyeball. Pupil dilation can be caused by dilating drops during an eye exam, or by using allergy drops.

If you are experiencing eye pain and notice that the irises of your eyes are different sizes, these are glaucoma symptoms that you can’t ignore! Contact your eye doctor immediately. If the pressure continues to rise, the damage in your eye can also increase which can lead to severe damage and potential loss of sight.

Am I at risk for glaucoma?

According to the American Optometric Association, common factors that cause glaucoma include:

  • Age: With each passing year, your risk increases slightly. African Americans are at increased risk after age 40, and others are at an increased risk over age 60.
  • Race: If you’re African American, you’re significantly more likely to get glaucoma and suffer a loss of sight than Caucasians. Asians and Native Alaskans are more at risk for angle-closure glaucoma, and individuals of Japanese heritage are more likely to develop low-tension glaucoma, which may be genetic or caused by low blood pressure.
  • Family history: If you have a parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle who has had glaucoma, you may be at risk.
  • Medical conditions: Diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease may contribute to the onset of glaucoma.
  • Corticoid steroid use: Continued cortisone, hydrocortisone, and prednisone use over long periods can put some people at risk of getting low-tension glaucoma.
  • Improper eye surgery: If cataract surgery or corneal transplants aren’t done properly, glaucoma develops.
  • Other eye conditions: Injuries or diseases that lead to retinal detachment, eye tumors, and inflammation can also be factors in developing glaucoma. Some studies have connected extreme nearsightedness with also being a risk factor.


Diagnosing glaucoma

Regular eye and vision examinations are critical to detecting glaucoma early. During a comprehensive optometric exam, your optometrist can conduct a painless procedure called tonometry to measure the internal pressure of your eye. When diagnosing glaucoma, your optometrist can also measure your field of vision and check the optic nerve to ensure it’s healthy.

Unfortunately, once glaucoma is detected, there are no current treatments that will fully restore healthy eyesight, but treatment can slow the progression of the disease.

Glaucoma prevention

The first line of defense against glaucoma is to have regular eye exams with a qualified, properly licensed optometrist.

Another way to help reduce the risk of glaucoma is to take preventive measures, such as using proper eye protection while playing sports, or using tools and machinery that could damage your eyes.

If you’re overweight and your doctor believes that the extra pounds are contributing to type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease, consider reducing your weight as an additional glaucoma prevention measure. According to Mayo Clinic, losing just five pounds can lower blood pressure.

Treating glaucoma

Medicinal eye drops are used as a first treatment, followed by an outpatient procedure called Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty. When medications and laser treatment aren’t adequate to lower eye pressure, then surgical therapies, including Micro-Invasive Glaucoma Surgery that places a stent into the eye’s drainage system, may be attempted.

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with glaucoma, the condition must be monitored to help prevent additional progress. For more information about glaucoma, schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

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