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Understanding Common Causes of Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease that can be difficult to determine the root cause of due to its multiple forms and triggers. If you’re concerned that you may have glaucoma or want to determine if you are at risk for glaucoma, keep reading to learn more. 

Basic Facts About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is commonly referred to as “the silent thief of sight”. Many glaucoma symptoms develop slowly and often go unnoticed before proper treatment can be administered. Many patients suffering from glaucoma lose up to 40% of their vision before realizing there is a problem. Vision loss due to glaucoma is caused by a slow increase in pressure that causes damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions, identified by probable causes that may contribute to contracting glaucoma.  Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma in the U.S. It develops when the natural fluid of your eye doesn't drain at a normal speed. In other forms of glaucoma, such as angle-closure glaucoma, the fluid may not be able to drain at all.

Types of Glaucoma Disease

The different diseases associated with glaucoma can be identified in two different groups: primary glaucoma and secondary glaucoma. Primary glaucoma diseases form on their own, with little known explanation of the true cause. Secondary glaucoma diseases are often caused by a currently prevailing medical condition.  Pinpointing which type of glaucoma you may have can help you and your doctor create a treatment plan that works for you.

Primary Glaucoma Variants

  • Open-Angle Glaucoma: The most common type of glaucoma. Though it is not clear what initially causes open-angle glaucoma, it is believed that pressure build-up in the eye due to eye fluid draining improperly is a part of it.

  • Normal-Tension Glaucoma: Occurs in people with normal eye pressure. People at higher risk of normal tension glaucoma are people of Asian descent, people who have a family history of normal-tension glaucoma, people who have had certain heart problems, and people who have low blood pressure.

  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This variant is often called narrow-angle or acute glaucoma. This form of glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you suddenly have intense eye pain, upset stomach, red eye, and blurry vision, immediately seek treatment from your nearest eye doctor or emergency room.

  • Congenital Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs in babies that are born with an ocular maldevelopment that keeps eye fluid from draining properly. Congenital glaucoma is genetic. Signs of congenital glaucoma in children are apparent immediately, with symptoms such as cloudy eyes, light sensitivity, abnormal tear productivity, or larger eyes than usual.

Types of Secondary Glaucoma

  • Neovascular Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is triggered when the eye develops extra blood vessels that cover the duct where the natural fluid of the eye should drain from. The disease is often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. Symptoms include pain or redness in the eye and vision loss.

  • Pigmentary Glaucoma: This type occurs when the pigment in the iris flakes off and blocks fluid drainage. People who tend to have this type of glaucoma are young, Caucasian males with near-sighted vision. Symptoms of this condition include blurry vision or seeing rainbow-colored rings when looking at lights, especially during or after exercising.

  • Exfoliation Glaucoma: Sometimes referred to as pseudo-exfoliation, this is a type of open-angle glaucoma. This condition occurs when the eye creates extra ocular fibers or materials, and when they’re shed the extra material can deposit on parts of the eye that prevents fluid from draining. Exfoliation glaucoma can be genetically inherited.

  • Uveitic Glaucoma: This condition is most common in people who have chronic cases of swelling and inflammation in the eye, which increases eye pressure. It’s unclear to experts how uveitic glaucoma is caused, but it’s theorized that the inflammation caused by this condition can scar eye tissue, which subsequently damages or blocks part of the eye where fluid drains out.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

Some common risk factors that can lead to glaucoma include: 

  • Being 40 or older 

  • Being of African American, Hispanic, or Asian descent

  • Having pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, etc.

  • Experiencing high blood pressure

  • Having a family history of glaucoma

How Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?

Although glaucoma cannot be prevented or cured, it can be controlled. Your eye doctor can help you find treatment to prevent vision loss and preserve eyesight. If you are taking medications like steroid eye drops or oral steroids for long periods of time, you may want to talk to your doctor about the risks involved with these medications. If you have a secondary form of glaucoma, working with your doctor to treat any chronic health conditions can help lessen the severity of glaucoma. 

Manage Glaucoma at Nationwide Vision

While glaucoma can be difficult to prevent, it is possible to prevent vision loss if it is caught early enough. Treatments such as eye drops or laser therapy can greatly reduce vision loss and nerve damage if caught early. Early-stage glaucoma often doesn't have any symptoms, but our vision team will be able to diagnose it during a routine eye exam.

Regularly seeing an eye doctor is key to staying ahead of the development of diseases like glaucoma and getting the proper treatment for every variant of this disease.

Routine eye exams allow the team at Nationwide Vision to detect eye disease and conditions before vision loss or impairment occurs. Our doctors specialize in glaucoma care and can help you maintain the best vision possible. Schedule an eye exam today

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