Glaucoma A Leading Cause of Blindness
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in elderly patients. Glaucoma is a health condition resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss in patients. Roughly 3 million Americans will experience some form of glaucoma every year, with more than 100,000 developing blindness as a result. In other countries glaucoma is often considered a leading cause for blindness.
Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma
Early diagnosis is important for treating glaucoma and related conditions. There are two primary forms of glaucoma. Chronic glaucoma is a long-standing condition often referred to as primary open-angle glaucoma or POAG. The other form of glaucoma is commonly referred to as acute closed-angle glaucoma. There are other variations of the disease that are less common including genetically influenced forms of glaucoma or secondary glaucoma.
Chronic glaucoma typically arises with few warning signs. Many patients don't realize that anything is wrong with their eyes before it is too late. This is one of the reason annual eye care exams are so important. They can help detect early glaucoma and increase the chance that your doctor can treat your condition promptly.
Chronic glaucoma reduces peripheral vision in patients over time. By the time most patients start realizing symptoms however, the changes that have occurred are permanent.
Acute or closed-angle glaucoma typically provides various symptoms including headaches, eye pain, dilated pupils, vision changes, nausea and red or irritated eyes. Patients may experience symptoms for extended periods of time or a few short hours. Many times symptoms come and go, or are intermittent.
Most patients with chronic glaucoma develop symptoms after age 35. In most cases acute angle-closure glaucoma must be considered an emergency requiring immediate treatment. Doctors treating this condition will work to reduce pressure in the eye to prevent permanent vision damage.
Glaucoma Treatment Choices
The best way to treat glaucoma is to prevent it. You should have your eyes examined by a qualified eye care professional at minimum every two years, every year if you experience vision problems or wear corrective lenses.
Certain people who are at higher risk for glaucoma including those with a family history of the disease, those of certain ethnic backgrounds, the elderly or those at risk for high intraocular pressures should visit their eye doctor more frequently. Consult with your eye care professional if you are not certain whether you fall into a high-risk category.
If your doctor suspects you may have glaucoma they may order a visual field test to detect any changes in your peripheral vision. This test requires you stare at a blinking light on the screen that assess your peripheral vision.
Typically treatment includes decreasing the production of aqueous humor and increasing the fluid drainage of the eye. Your doctor may suggest you start using special eye drops to help decrease the amount of fluid produced in the eye. Your doctor may recommend other treatments depending on your medical history. The most commonly used drops include beta-blocker eye drops. Some patients however will do well on alpha-2 agonists or prostaglandin analogs.
Many of the medications used to treat glaucoma interact with other medications. For this reason it is vital you consult with your health care professional to ensure the proper treatment is recommended.
Fortunately most doctors are able to control glaucoma using single or combination medication therapy. In some cases surgery may be necessary to address vision impairment. In some cases patients are candidates for a type of laser surgery referred to as trabeculoplasty, where your doctor creates small holes within the cornea to help increase drainage and reduce fluid build up in the eye.
Be sure to consult with your eye care professional to determine the best course of treatment given the severity of your condition, the type of glaucoma you may have and your personal medical history. Remember early diagnosis and treatment are essential for leading a rich and rewarding life despite a diagnosis of glaucoma!
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