Learning About Your Eyes

Fri 09 December 2016

Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the major nerve of the eye called the optic nerve.

This nerve is the part of our central nervous system that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. NHS Heroes Left untreated, it can lead to blindness, and now accounts for 9-12% of all blindness in the U.S.

Types of Glaucoma

Open Angle gets its name because the angle between the cornea and the iris remains open and wide.

This type of glaucoma, which accounts for over 90% of reported cases, develops when the drainage canals in the eyes gradually become blocked. This causes a slow build-up of fluid pressure, which ultimately damages the optic nerve.

Since this build up is gradual, the damage often goes unnoticed until the glaucoma becomes more advanced.

Open Angle tends to run in families, and it is known that African-Americans have a higher risk for the condition.

Symptoms:

  • Most people have no symptoms
  • There is a slow loss of peripheral (side) vision, also called tunnel vision
Angle Closure

This type gets its name because the angle between the cornea and the iris becomes closed and narrow in sufferers.  It develops when the draining canals become blocked very suddenly.  This leads to a rapid build-up of fluid pressure in the eyes which then damages the optic nerve.

Since the pressure builds up rapidly, the damage caused by angle closure glaucoma is often noticeable in the very early stages.

Symptoms:

  • Symptoms may happen sporadically, or steadily become worse
  • Sudden, severe pain in one eye
  • Decreased or cloudy vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rainbow-like halos around lights
  • Eye feels swollen
***Angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency.

Congenital  (also called childhood or infantile) is present at birth and is caused by abnormal eye development. The child’s eyes drainage system does not function properly as a result of a birth defect or inheritance.  This leads to fluid pressure building up in the eye, ultimately damaging the optic nerve.

Symptoms:

  • Symptoms are usually noticed when the child is a few months old
  • Cloudiness of the front of the eye
  • Enlargement of one or both eyes
  • Red eye
Normal Tension , also known as NTG and Normal Pressure, gets its name because the fluid pressure in the eye remains normal.  It is not known why this type develops in certain people with normal eye fluid pressure, and not in others.

By definition, people with normal-tension glaucoma have open, normal-appearing angles. It usually affects adults around age 60, and is more common in women than in men.

Symptoms:

People with this type  do not experience any early symptoms. By the time a person notices vision loss, a significant amounts of optic nerve damage  will already be present and the damage to the optic nerve and loss of vision are permanent.

Risk Factors:

Age: It happens to the best of us…Unfortunately, as we get older the risk of  glaucoma increases.  From age 60 and up we are six times more likely to contract glaucoma. Groan…

Blood Health: People who suffer from health disorders that affect the blood are much more likely to develop glaucoma.  In particular, people who suffer from diabetes (which increase blood glucose levels) and high blood pressure, have a higher risk.

Eye Health: People who have had eye injuries or are very nearsighted (myopic) are also at higher risk.

Family History: While a family history doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop this disease, it does increase your risk.  If your brother or sister has glaucoma you are five times more likely to have it.

Race: African-Americans are five times more likely to contract glaucoma than Caucasians. It is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans, affecting them at a younger age than it does Caucasians.

Asian Americans and Mexican Americans also have an increased risk compared to the rest of the population, but it is not as significant as for African-Americans.

Treatment: The goal of  treatment is to reduce eye pressure, and depends on  the type of glaucoma that you have.

Your age, family history and race are completely out of your hands. However, even though there is no specific way to prevent this condition, a healthy lifestyle sure can’t hurt.

To improve your overall physical and mental well-being, follow the tried and true methods:

>  Eat a healthy diet containing a variety of foods. While there is no scientific evidence suggesting that certain vitamins and minerals prevent glaucoma or delay its progress, it is widely believed that some, such as carotenoids, antioxidants (such vitamins C and E), vitamins A and D, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids, may all contribute to better vision.

>  Limit caffeine intake to moderate levels. Some evidence suggests that high amounts of caffeine may increase eye pressure.

>  Maintain a healthy weight.

>  Keep blood pressure at a normal level and control other medical conditions.

>  Do not smoke.

>  Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing sunglasses and hats.

>  Regularly visit a physician for comprehensive eye exams.

While there is no guarantee that a healthy lifestyle will prevent it specifically, ask yourself this…

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