Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve, which sends information from the eye to the brain. This condition is associated with abnormally high pressure inside the eyes and if left untreated, glaucoma can lead to peripheral vision loss and cause blindness. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness across the world, next to cataracts.
There are two major glaucoma categories, including open-angle or wide-angle glaucoma (most common) and angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma (more common in Asia). In open-angle glaucoma the drainage system in your eye looks normal but the fluid doesn’t flow out like it should. In angle-closure glaucoma, the eye does not drain because the drain space between the iris and the cornea becomes too narrow, which can cause a sudden build-up of pressure in the eye.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
It’s imperative to have regular eye exams to detect eye issues that can be quite harmful to your vision. There are different symptoms for each type of glaucoma; for open-angle glaucoma, symptoms do not occur until late in the disease and include gradual loss of side (peripheral) vision in both eyes and tunnel vision in advanced stages.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma must be treated immediately, and if not, blindness can develop in under two days. It’s important to look out for the signs of acute angle-closure glaucoma developing, including:
- Halos around lights
- Vision loss
- Redness in the eye
- Eye that looks hazy (especially in infants)
- Upset stomach or vomiting
- Eye pain
Glaucoma treatment often involves medication (usually eye drops, but sometimes oral medications as well) or laser surgery or microsurgery, with the goal of lowering pressure in your eye. Eye drops either reduce the amount of fluid produced in the eye or increase its flow out. Some glaucoma medications can affect your heart or lungs, so it is very important to tell your doctor about any other medications you are taking or can be allergic to. The treatments are normally long term and should not be discontinued without consulting your doctor.