Glaucoma is known as the “silent thief of sight” and is the second-leading cause of blindness, with 44.7 million people worldwide diagnosed with the disease as of 2010. While most symptoms are hardly noticeable at first, the loss of vision occurs gradually over time; and once vision is lost, there is no replacing it.
Glaucoma is an eye condition that damages the optic nerve, which is what sends visual information from the eye to the brain. This damage is typically caused by increased pressure, also known as intraocular pressure.
There are three major types of glaucoma: open-angle (chronic), angle-closure (acute), and congenital.
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form, with 90 percent of all cases in the United States relating to this particular form of the disease. The pressure in the eye continues to slowly build over time, pushing against the optic nerve. It is painless and the only signs are gradual vision loss and changes in the optic nerve. Open-angle glaucoma runs in families and those of African descent are typically at a higher risk of contracting it.
Angle-closure glaucoma is quick, severe and painful with the rise of pressure in the eye. If angle-closure glaucoma is detected in one eye, the patient is at risk for obtaining it in the other eye. Dilating eye drops or certain medicines can cause this type of glaucoma.
Congenital glaucoma often runs in families and is detected slightly after birth. It is caused by abnormal eye development. Trauma, diseases and drugs like corticosteroids can cause secondary glaucoma.
Thorough eye examinations are needed to detect glaucoma. A tonometry test is also given to measure eye pressure; however, eye pressure constantly changes and some glaucoma patients present with normal eye pressure.
Immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay progression of the disease. That’s why early diagnosis is very important.
Glaucoma treatments include medicines, laser trabeculoplasty, conventional surgery, or a combination of any of these. While these treatments may save remaining vision, they do not improve sight already lost from glaucoma.