Glaucoma: Leading Cause of Preventable Blindness in Seniors

By: Jody Smith

Glaucoma is the result of pressure from excess fluid building up inside the eye. If it is allowed to run its course unhindered, glaucoma can damage the optic nerve and can lead to blindness.

The optic nerve is the bundle of nerve fibers transmitting messages to the brain from the eye. Optic nerve damage results from high eye (intraocular) pressure, though it can happen with less eye pressure.

The optic nerve transports millions of nerve fibers called neurons (nerve cells). Peripheral vision is sent to the brain by smaller peripheral nerve fibers.

When these nerve fibers are under pressure, and when perfusion of oxygen and needed nutrients is insufficient, damage can occur.

In most types of glaucoma, peripheral (side) vision is lost over a period of time. Since there are no early symptoms for most glaucoma cases, damage from glaucoma has usually occurred by the time the presence of the disease is discovered.

Treatment can reduce some symptoms but there is no known cure for glaucoma since the optic nerve damage can't be fixed. However, more damage can be delayed or halted by surgery or medications, decreasing the pressure inside the eye.

You can't recover lost vision but you may be able to protect the vision you retain.

According to the American Foundation for the Blind Senior Site, glaucoma afflicts more than 3 million Americans. Glaucoma is among the leading causes of blindness in adults, and is the primary cause of preventable blindness. Seniors are at higher risk for glaucoma than younger people.

Open-angle glaucoma makes up 90 percent or more of glaucoma cases. Drainage canals slowly become clogged, causing eye pressure.

Open-angle glaucoma has a wide, open angle between the cornea and the iris. Its symptoms develop slowly, diminishing your peripheral vision.

Some symptoms are blurry vision, halos surrounding bright light, headaches and nausea. Open-angle glaucoma is also known as primary, or chronic glaucoma.

Angle-closure glaucoma is less common. Drainage canals are blocked. Intraocular pressure inceases suddenly.

The angle between the cornea and the iris is narrow or closed. Its symptoms and its damage are noticeable, requiring medical attention right away.

Other names for angle-closure glaucoma are acute glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma. It is caused when the angle that is between the cornea and the iris becomes closed.

Normal-tension glaucoma (NTG) is also known as low-tension or normal-pressure glaucoma. Pressure behind the eye is not high yet the optic nerve becomes damaged for unknown reasons.

An examination of the eyes by an optometrist or an opthalmologist is the only way to determine whether or not you have glaucoma.

An optometrist is an eye doctor of optometry (OD) who diagnoses and treats eye disorders and diseases like astigmatism, farsightedness, nearsightedness and presbyopia. An opthalmologist is an eye doctor who specializes in medical and surgical eye care, and prevention of eye injury and disease.





About Glaucoma



Types of Glaucoma

Choosing an Eye Doctor