What Is Glaucoma – and Am I at Risk? 

The Basics: What Is Glaucoma? 

Glau­co­ma is a dis­ease that dam­ages the optic nerve at the back of your eye, which can lead to vision loss and blind­ness if left untreated. 

The most com­mon form of glau­co­ma is called Pri­ma­ry open-angle glau­co­ma.” Open-angle glau­co­ma caus­es a clogged drain-like effect. Your eye doesn’t drain flu­id out like it should and eye pres­sure starts to build up. As the pres­sure con­tin­ues to build, it dam­ages your optic nerve. This is pain­less and ini­tial­ly may not cause any notice­able changes to the vision. Over­time, if left untreat­ed, this can lead to blindness. 

There are a few less com­mon types of glau­co­ma, including: 

  • Nor­mal ten­sion glaucoma 
  • This is when peo­ple show signs of glau­co­ma, like blind spots or dam­age to their optic nerve, but have nor­mal eye pres­sure.
  • Angle-clo­sure glau­co­ma (also known as nar­row-angle” or acute”)
  • This hap­pens when the iris (col­ored part of the eye) blocks the drainage of flu­id from the eye, and eye pres­sure builds up quick­ly. It can cause symp­toms like sud­den blurred vision, severe eye pain, eye red­ness, headache, nau­sea, and vom­it­ing. This is an emer­gency that requires imme­di­ate atten­tion due to risk of blind­ness if it is not treat­ed right away.
  • Con­gen­i­tal glaucoma 
  • This is a rare form of glau­co­ma that is present from birth when a baby has a prob­lem with their eye that stops it from drain­ing flu­id prop­er­ly.
  • Sec­ondary glaucoma 
  • This is glau­co­ma that has an iden­ti­fi­able cause, unlike pri­ma­ry open-angle glau­co­ma. These caus­es may include inflam­ma­tion, trau­ma, steroid use, dia­betes, etc…

Why You Might Be at Risk for Glaucoma 

Any­one can get glau­co­ma, but some peo­ple are more at risk than others. 

Race and eth­nic­i­ty can play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the like­li­hood of get­ting glau­co­ma. Peo­ple who are Black or His­pan­ic are more like­ly than peo­ple in oth­er eth­nic groups to get glau­co­ma, and they’re also more like­ly to devel­op it ear­li­er in life. Inu­it and Asian peo­ple have a greater risk of get­ting angle-clo­sure glaucoma. 

You may also have an increased risk for glau­co­ma if you: 

  • Have a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of glaucoma 
  • Have had pre­vi­ous eye injuries or surgeries 
  • Are near­sight­ed (increased risk for open-angle glau­co­ma) or far­sight­ed (increased risk for closed-angle glaucoma) 
  • Have high eye pressure 
  • Use cor­ti­cos­teroids on a long-term basis 
  • Have dia­betes
  • Are over age 40

Why Ear­ly Diag­no­sis Is Key

    There is no cure for glau­co­ma. Any dam­age that is present is per­ma­nent and can­not be reversed. How­ev­er, there are treat­ments like med­ica­tions, surgery, and laser ther­a­py to help slow down or pre­vent vision loss. These treat­ments are espe­cial­ly effec­tive if you start them when you’re still in the ear­ly stages of glau­co­ma before your vision has been too impaired. 

    But, there’s a catch – it can be dif­fi­cult to detect glau­co­ma at those ear­ly stages. Vision loss from glau­co­ma comes on grad­u­al­ly and often doesn’t cause symp­toms until it has become more advanced. 

    That’s why it’s so impor­tant to get reg­u­lar vision tests, rather than rely­ing sole­ly on how well you can see, to mon­i­tor your eye health. Your provider can look for signs of dam­age to your optic nerve or high eye pres­sure that could indi­cate glau­co­ma before you even notice any vision changes. 

    Once you’ve start­ed treat­ment, there are also cer­tain lifestyle mod­i­fi­ca­tions you can make to pre­vent fur­ther vision loss. Con­trol­ling your blood pres­sure, remain­ing phys­i­cal­ly active, avoid­ing smok­ing, cut­ting back on caf­feine, and keep­ing a healthy weight can help you con­trol your eye pres­sure and improve your eye health. 

    By tak­ing care of your­self and keep­ing up with your pre­scribed treat­ment plan, you can slow or halt glau­co­ma in its tracks. You’ll see. 

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    • My goal is to have a positive impact on the quality of life of my patients by helping them understand and achieve their visual needs. I look forward to creating meaningful relationships with my patients while providing them with high-quality, compassionate, patient-centered medical and surgical care.