National Glaucoma Awareness Month
To better prepare for the year ahead, it’s important that our health is in optimal condition. In the case of our sight, the month of January serves as National Glaucoma Awareness Month in the United States.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that also happens to be the second leading cause of blindness after macular degeneration. It affects the optic nerve, which is the tissue responsible for transmitting visuals images from your eyes to the brain. The back of your eyes makes aqueous humor – a clear fluid that supplies nutrition to the cornea and lens. When created, aqueous humor fills the front part of your eyes before exiting through the cornea and iris. Unfortunately, the blockage of these channels can slowly increase pressure. This gradual build-up of pressure then leads to a damaged optic nerve. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause vision loss before leading to permanent blindness.
Types of glaucoma
While there are different variations of glaucoma, below are the three most common.
- Open-Angle (Chronic) Glaucoma: This form of glaucoma is the most common type and its only symptom is gradual vision loss.
- Angle-Closure (acute) Glaucoma: Not as common as open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma occurs when a rapid buildup of fluid escalates into a quick and painful increase of pressure.
- Congenital Glaucoma: A hereditary form of glaucoma, it affects small children or infants. It is caused by a birth defect in their eye’s drainage system.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
When educating yourself about a disease, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors. Especially if they can lead to permanent blindness. While the exact cause of pressure in one’s eye is rarely known, below are possible contributing factors.
- Age: As the risk of glaucoma increases with age, those over the age of 60 should ensure that they go for regular and comprehensive eye exams.
- Ethnicity: According to various studies, African-Americans and people of African and Asian descent are at a higher risk of developing the eye disease than their Caucasian counterparts. In fact, for African-Americans, the risk of glaucoma starts at age 40.
- Eye problems: Chronic eye inflammation, thin corneas and any form of physical injury or trauma to the eye can increase pressure.
- Medical health: Individuals with chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease or even high blood pressure are at an increased risk.
- Prescription drugs: While they’re meant to provide eye relief, prolonged use of corticosteroid eye medicine can actually increase the risk.
As mentioned, eye exams are incredibly vital if you’re looking to pick up any significant changes in your vision.
While there are rarely any signs and symptoms associated with glaucoma, it is advisable to consult an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) if your blurry vision is accompanied by the following symptoms;
- eye pain
- redness in the eye
- sudden vision disturbances
- seeing colored rings around lights
During the eye exam, the ophthalmologist is likely to perform tests that will examine your optic nerve, cornea, vision (peripheral, side and central) as well as the eye’s internal pressure.
Unfortunately, there still remains no cure for this particular eye disease. That being said, the purpose of treatment is to reduce the pressure on the eye and prevent any additional loss of vision.
Treatment often takes the form of eye drops or pills and in some severe cases, surgery. Surgery is done to create a drainage path for the fluid or remove any tissues that are encouraging the fluid buildup. In regards to diet, it is advisable to consume healthy eye-foods. This includes bright foods rich in antioxidants such as carrots, blueberries, oranges, and broccoli. Be sure to stay clear of sugar and alcohol.
The bottom line
While glaucoma can’t be cured, it can still be manageable and having an annual eye test can help to ensure that it doesn’t progress and cause permanent blindness.