Glaucoma and Your Eyes   

Glaucoma and Your Eyes

Glaucoma, another common visual problem in older adults, is a progressive loss of mid-peripheral vision caused by pressure inside the eyes. Glaucoma has no symptoms, so it's important to get regular eye exams to look for it. You should have a glaucoma check every two years after age 40. If you have glaucoma, it's very treatable in its early stages.

Fluid is constantly flowing through the inside of your eye. The front segment of the eye is filled with a fluid called aqueous humour. This fluid helps maintain normal intra-ocular pressure, preventing the eyeball from collapsing. It also nourishes the lens, the iris and the inside of the cornea.

When the fluid doesn't flow normally, the pressure inside your eye rises and damages your sight. This is a medical condition known as glaucoma. If this pressure in the eye remains high and is left untreated, it may lead to blindness.

Symptoms of glaucoma include loss of vision to each side (peripheral vision), halos around lights, pain in the eye, blurred vision, and gradual loss of sight.

Types of glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common kind of glaucoma. Pressure inside the eye rises slowly and destroys vision gradually, starting with side vision. This "sneak thief of sight" usually causes no pain or other warning signs. In some cases, vision may be lost, even though pressure stays within a normal range (low-tension glaucoma).

Closed-angle glaucoma is less common. Pressure inside the eye rises suddenly and must be lowered right away to prevent blindness. Severe pain and blurred vision can occur with an acute attack. A chronic form of closed-angle glaucoma occurs more slowly and often without any symptoms.

Other kinds of glaucoma can be linked to an injury or inflammation of the eye, a cataract (clouding or the eye's lens), an eye tumour, or advanced diabetes (high blood sugar).

What are the risk factors?

The major risk factor for glaucoma is age.
Glaucoma most often strikes people over 50, but everyone over 35 should be tested at least every two years.

Asians are somewhat more likely to develop narrow-angle glaucoma.

Family history of glaucoma
You are at higher risk of developing glaucoma if a close family member has had the disease.

Other medical conditions
High blood pressure and high blood sugar are conditions that may predispose you to glaucoma.

Diagnosing glaucoma

Most people learn that they have glaucoma during an eye exam by an ophthalmologist. A number of simple tests can reveal changes in your eye pressure, drainage angle, optic disc and visual field. This can alert your eye doctor to a problem.
Consult your local ophthalmologist for more information.

A typical eye exam may involve:
Medical history - Glaucoma tends to be hereditary, so identify other members of family who have glaucoma.
Tonometry - A test to measure eye pressure.
Gonioscopy - Performed with a special type of contact lens to evaluate the aqueous fluid drainage angle.
Optic disc assessment - Performed using special lenses with the slit lamp to assess any enlargement of the optic cup.
Visual field analysis - A test performed with a computer or short wave-length light to evaluate your side vision. Each eye is tested separately.

Happy reading,

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