All About Glaucoma

January 28 2020
by Katie Phillips

By: Stacie Doan, COTA/L, SCLV-A, Occupational Therapy Assistant

Since January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, what better time to learn more about Glaucoma (even if we are at the end of the month)? Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damages the optic nerve, often due to abnormally high pressure in the eye (Mayo Clinic, 2018). It is listed as one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. Glaucoma often has no warning signs, and can be so gradual that many people do not notice a change in their vision until the condition is already in advanced stages. In fact, some people can have optic nerves that are sensitive to eye pressure, making them more at risk to develop glaucoma (Boyd, 2019). This is why it is so important to see your eye doctor regularly, to have your eye pressures monitored and optic nerves checked in an effort to prevent glaucoma.

CLoseup of hazel colored eye looking to the right

Photo by Patrick Brinksma, Unsplash

According to Boyd (2019), the two major types of glaucoma are primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma (“closed-angle glaucoma”). Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type, happening gradually. It is when the eye does not drain fluid well, causing the eye pressure to build up and ultimately damaging the optic nerve (Boyd, 2019).  Primary open-angle glaucoma does not cause vision changes at first and is painless.

However, with acute angle-closure glaucoma (also called “closed-angle glaucoma” or “narrow-angle glaucoma”), this is a true emergency that can cause blindness and has the following symptoms: Your vision is suddenly blurry, you have severe eye pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, and you may see rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights. If exhibiting any of these symptoms, you should call your eye doctor immediately, as you may be having an acute attack.

So now that we know the types of glaucoma, who is at risk? According to Boyd (2019), the following are risk factors for Glaucoma:

  • People over age 40 and those with family history of glaucoma.
  • People of African, Hispanic, or Asian heritage.
  • Have high eye pressure and/or have had an eye injury.
  • People who are farsighted or nearsighted.
  • Long-term steroid medication intake.
  • Thin corneas, specifically in the center, and/or thinning of the optic nerve.
  • Diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, poor blood circulation, or any condition affecting the whole body.

It is highly encouraged to talk with your ophthalmologist or eye care provider about your risk for glaucoma. As always, yearly eye exams are important for overall eye health and the prevention of glaucoma and other eye conditions.

References:

  1. Boyd, K.  (2019).  Who is at risk for glaucoma?  Retrieved from: https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/glaucoma-risk
  2. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (1998-2020).   Glaucoma.  Retrieved January 21, 2020 from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839

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