When you suffer from any disease that affects your eyesight, it can be a daunting process to get to the bottom of what’s really going on. You often take your sight for granted until a serious disease threatens to take your vision away. Glaucoma is a set of eye diseases which can gradually and unknowingly become worse over your lifetime. In rarer cases, it can affect your vision by way of sudden attack. So exactly what is glaucoma, and how can you avoid becoming a victim of this increasingly common disease?
Glaucoma is a set of eye diseases that can lead to blindness if left untreated. The common cause of glaucoma is a build-up of pressure in the eye, often when excess fluid becomes blocked. This fluid is known as aqueous fluid. Because of ongoing pressure from this built-up fluid, the sensitive optic nerve, which is located at the back of the eye can become damaged and may lead to irreversible blindness. The optic nerve is important, as it’s made up of over one million nerve fibers, which help to send information to the brain about the images we see. What’s challenging about glaucoma is that there are usually no symptoms to suggest its presence. At least not until it may be too late to save your vision. Approximately three million Americans suffer from glaucoma, but because of the lack of symptoms, over half of those with glaucoma won’t even know they have it. Globally, over 60 million people have glaucoma and many have no clue. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, behind cataracts. The two main types of glaucoma are described in terms of angles, as this is the angle between the iris (colored part of the eye) and the cornea (the clear part of your eye). While there are multiple types of glaucoma, the two main types are the open and closed angle.
This is the most common type of glaucoma, which makes up 90% of all cases. It is a disease that develops slowly over time and can remain entirely asymptomatic until the disease has become quite developed. It can sneak up on you over a number of years, which is why it is known as the silent thief of sight. Open-angle glaucoma is where your drainage canals become blocked due to the angle where your iris and cornea meet not being as open or wide as seen in a healthy eye. This blockage causes the eye pressure to rise, and damage to be caused to the optic nerve.
This type of glaucoma can come with a sudden onset of symptoms, that requires immediate medical attention to save your sight. Chronic versions of angle closure glaucoma, however, can also develop without any symptoms. The outer edge of the iris is known to bunch over the drainage canals, completely blocking the canal and preventing the fluid in your eye from draining. This type of glaucoma is a rarer form than open-angle glaucoma.