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What is Glaucoma?

What is glaucoma? | How do you get glaucoma? | Is glaucoma hereditary? | What are the different forms of glaucoma? | What are the symptoms of glaucoma? | How to prevent glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60, so detecting it early is crucial.
What is glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease characterized by increased pressure in the eyeball (intraocular pressure). Extra fluid buildup in the front of the eye is a common cause of this pressure increase.

The built up intraocular pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve, affecting your vision. For people over 60 years old, Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness. 

How do you get glaucoma?

Aqueous humor, the fluid inside your eyes, typically drains out of your eyes through a specific channel. When that channel is blocked, it creates a build up of liquids and thus increased pressure in the eye.

Often, the cause of this block is unknown. Other less common causes of Glaucoma include chemical injuries, severe infections, and blocked blood vessels.

Is glaucoma hereditary?

Glaucoma tends to run in families. In some cases, the increased pressure in the eye can be attributed to a person’s genes. It is possible for children to have glaucoma, though the disease mainly affects people over 40.

Glaucoma developing in the first few years of life or present at birth could be caused by drainage blockage or an underlying condition. 


What makes glaucoma dangerous is the lack of other sympoms before loss of vision occurs, by which point irreversible damage has been done.

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Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. The drainage angle formed by the iris and the cornea remains open while the channel becomes partially blocked. This pressure slowly damages this optic nerve, and you could lose vision before experiencing any noticeable warning signs. 

Angle-closure glaucoma is when the iris blocks or narrows the drainage angle formed by the iris and the cornea. When this occurs suddenly, it is known as angle-closure acute glaucoma and it is a medical emergency. 

Normal tension glaucoma occurs when your eye pressure remains the same while damage occurs to the optic nerve. The exact cause of this is unknown. 

Pigmentary glaucoma happens when pigment granules from your iris build up in the drainage channels, blocking fluid.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Symptoms of open-angle glaucoma include gradual loss of peripheral vision usually occurring in both eyes, and in some cases tunnel vision.  Acute angle closure glaucoma is characterized by symptoms of severe pain in the eyeball, sudden visual disturbance, blurred vision, halos of light, and reddening of the eye.

If you experience any of these symptoms, especially those related to angle closure glaucoma, you should speak to your eye care professional immediately. 

How to prevent glaucoma?

It is important to detect glaucoma early on and that’s why you should have a glaucoma test at least every two to four years if over the age of 40 and every one to two years if you’re over 65. Knowing your family’s health history is another preventative step when it comes to Glaucoma, as it can be hereditary.

Eye injuries can lead to glaucoma, so make sure you always have the right eye protection. Sports glasses and safety goggles are especially important to reduce the risk of eye injuries.

How to treat glaucoma?

Damage caused by glaucoma can not be reversed, and that’s why it is important to catch this disease in its early stages. However, treatments can help slow or prevent further vision loss once it has started.

Treatments involve decreasing your eyeball pressure by using prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser treatments, surgery, or a combination of these treatment options.

Read here to learn about ocular hypertension, another risk factor for glaucoma.

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