Eyesight is important but easily taken for granted. Few people can imagine life without their eyesight, but hundreds of millions of people across the globe experience compromised vision every year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. In fact, estimates from the World Glaucoma Association indicated that 79.6 million individuals would experience glaucoma in 2020. By 2040, that figure is expected to rise to 111.8 million people.
What is glaucoma? Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology®, glaucoma usually results from the buildup of fluid in the front part of the eye. As that fluid builds up, it increases the pressure in the eye, ultimately damaging the optic nerve.
Are all glaucomas the same?
All glaucomas are not the same, and the AAO notes that there are two major types of the disease: primary open-angle glaucoma and angleclosure glaucoma.
• Primary openangle glaucoma: The most common type of the disease, primary open-angle glaucoma develops gradually. Eyes affected by primary open-angle glaucoma do not drain fluid as well as they should, resulting in the buildup of pressure that slowly starts to damage the optic nerve.
• Angle-closure glaucoma: Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when a person’s iris is very close to the drainage angle in his or her eye. The AAO says that this proximity can block the drainage angle, causing pres sure to build up very quickly. However, the AAO also notes that many people with angle-closure glaucoma develop it very slowly and have no idea they have it until they’ve suffered severe damage.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
The symptoms of glaucoma differ depending on which type a person has.
According to the AAO, there are no obvious symptoms in the early stages of open-angle glaucoma. Blind spots develop in patients’ peripheral vision as the disease progresses. Because people often do not experience symptoms until the damage from open-angle glaucoma has become severe, the AAO urges adults to schedule routine eye exams with an ophthalmologist so the disease can be found before any significant damage has occurred.
Blurred vision, halos, mild headaches, or eye pain are some early symptoms of an angle-closure glaucoma attack. However, the AAO notes that people with angle-closure glaucoma do not typically notice any symptoms until the attack has started. As a result, the AAO urges anyone experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms to contact their ophthalmologist immediately. Once an angle-closure glaucoma attack has begun, symptoms may include:
• severe pain in the
eye or forehead
• redness of the eye
• decreased vision or blurred vision
No one is immune to glaucoma, which can quickly rob otherwise healthy individuals of their vision. Learning to recognize the early signs of glaucoma and seeking prompt treatment can reduce the likelihood of substantial vision loss.