Research suggests that more than three million Americans are living with glaucoma, and more than 80 million people worldwide. This number is expected to increase to more than 111 million by 2040. It is also one of the leading causes of blindness and any vision that is lost as a result of glaucoma is, unfortunately, permanent.
Glaucoma is the name used to describe eye diseases that occur as a result of damage to the optic nerve caused by excessive eye pressure. The optic nerve is the main nerve that runs from the eye to the brain and has several functions. Firstly, it delivers essential blood and nutrients to the eye to keep it healthy. Secondly, it transmits messages between the eyes and brain to tell us what we can see.
When the pressure inside the eye gets too great, it squeezes the optic nerve and destroys some of the nerve fibers, causing sight loss. Unfortunately, in many cases, patients will experience some vision loss before they are even diagnosed with glaucoma.
There are two main types of glaucoma. By far the most common is known as open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for around 90% of cases. This develops slowly, over many years and symptoms take a long time to become apparent. Around 50% of people with this type of glaucoma are unaware that they have the disease. Around 10% of cases of glaucoma are called acute or closed-angle glaucoma. This type develops rapidly and requires immediate treatment to prevent any further vision loss.
The symptoms of open-angle glaucoma usually take years to manifest, and most cases are diagnosed as a result of comprehensive eye exams rather than a visit triggered by the onset of symptoms. The only real sign of open-angle glaucoma is a loss of peripheral vision.
Meanwhile, acute/closed-angle glaucoma causes the rapid onset of symptoms including:
Nausea and vomiting
Halos around lights
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s critical that you visit your eye doctor for an assessment. Acute glaucoma must be treated immediately, and this usually involves medication taken orally to lower the pressure inside the eyes, although more invasive treatment may also be required.
Fortunately, there are some things that you can do to minimize your risk of developing glaucoma, although you can’t guarantee 100% prevention. Some of these include:
Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables, colored fruits, berries, and vegetables every day as they contain vitamins and minerals that are good for eye health.
Do regular, gentle exercise. Anything too vigorous can raise your eye pressure.
Wear adequate protection to keep your eyes safe during activities that could otherwise put them at risks, such as during contact and high-speed sports, or when doing woodworking or welding.
Minimize your use of steroid medications, as these have been known to raise eye pressure.
Maintain a healthy weight. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, and this condition increases your risk of glaucoma and other diseases.
Wear sunglasses when you go outside, as some evidence suggests that overexposure to UV light can increase the likelihood of developing glaucoma.
Visit your eye doctor regularly. Your eye doctor will perform assessments to check the level of pressure inside your eye, as well as evaluate the health of the optic nerve.
If you have any questions about glaucoma, or to schedule an appointment for a glaucoma assessment, please visit West Texas Eyecare in Pecos. Call (432) 445-3662 today.