What is Glaucoma?
Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (“Glaucoma”) is a chronic disease and it may be hereditary. It is painless, and the patient often does not realise they are slowly losing vision until the later stages of the disease. There is no cure for it at present, but the disease can be slowed or arrested by treatment. Since there are no symptoms, annual pressure checks which take a few minutes are essential. Once visual loss occurs, it is irreversible.
In Glaucoma the optic nerve at the back of the eye is damaged due to the pressure inside the eye. There are no noticeable symptoms for the patient during the early stages of the disease when it is critical to start treatment that will limit or avoid blindness. Glaucoma can only be detected by an eye care professional and typical treatment involves daily eye drops.
Signs and Symptoms
Most people who have open-angle glaucoma feel fine and do not notice a change in their vision at first because sharpness of vision is maintained until late in the disease.
Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision. You may compensate for this unconsciously by turning your head to the side. By the time a patient is aware of vision loss, the disease is usually quite advanced.
Glaucoma is not curable, and vision lost cannot be regained. The good news is that with regular eye exams, early detection, and treatment, you can halt further loss of vision. Since open-angle glaucoma is a chronic condition, it must be monitored for life.
Causes and Risks
Everyone is at risk for glaucoma. Older people are at a higher risk but babies can be born with glaucoma. Young adults can get glaucoma, too.
Your eyes should be tested:
- Before age 40, every two to four years.
- from age 40 to age 54, every one to three years.
- from age 55 to 64, every one to two years.
- after age 65, every 12 months.
People over 60 are more likely to get glaucoma
- Family history increases risk of glaucoma four to nine times.
- Steroid users have a 40% increase in the incidence of glaucoma.
- Injury to the eye can cause secondary glaucoma. Sometimes years later.
- Blunt injuries that “bruise” the eye can lead to traumatic glaucoma.
- The most common cause is sports-related injuries such as baseball or boxing.
- High myopia (nearsightedness).
- Cardiovascular disease
Research shows that lowering intra ocular pressure (IOP) reduces the risk of progression of glaucoma. IOP may be lowered by medication, laser therapy and surgical procedures. If detected early, glaucoma is easily treated, usually by instilling one eyedrop in each eye once daily.
Content courtesy Kenton Optometrists (www.kentonoptom.co.za)
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