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Understanding Common Cause of Glaucoma

The causes of glaucoma can be difficult to pinpoint because there are several forms of the disease and no singular trigger. Keep reading to learn about some of the possible causes of glaucoma and what risk factors may increase your chances of developing this condition. 

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is often a painless optic nerve disease that can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. Vision loss results from increased pressure on the optic nerve, which damages its delicate fibers.

There are several types of glaucoma, and they are grouped according to how pressure increases occur in the eye. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of this disease in the U.S. and develops as the natural fluid that moves in and out of your eye doesn't drain quickly enough. In other forms of glaucoma, like angle-closure glaucoma, this fluid may not be able to drain at all.

Types of Glaucoma Diseases

The different diseases associated with glaucoma can be identified in two different groups: primary glaucoma and secondary glaucoma. Primary glaucoma diseases form on their own, with little known explanation of the true cause. Secondary glaucoma diseases are often caused by a currently prevailing medical condition.

Primary Glaucoma Forms

  • Open-Angle Glaucoma: The most common type of glaucoma. Though it is not clear what initially causes open-angle glaucoma, it is believed that pressure build-up in the eye due to eye fluid draining improperly is a part of it.

  • Normal-Tension Glaucoma: Occurs in people with normal eye pressure. People at higher risk of normal tension glaucoma are people of Asian descent, people who have a family history of normal-tension glaucoma, people who have had certain heart problems, and people who have low blood pressure.

  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This variant is often called narrow-angle or acute glaucoma. This form of glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you suddenly have intense eye pain, upset stomach, red eye, and blurry vision, immediately seek treatment from your nearest eye doctor or emergency room.

  • Congenital Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma occurs in babies that are born with an ocular maldevelopment that keeps eye fluid from draining properly. Congenital glaucoma is genetic. Signs of congenital glaucoma in children are apparent immediately, with symptoms such as cloudy eyes, light sensitivity, abnormal tear productivity, or larger eyes than usual.

Secondary Glaucoma Forms

  • Neovascular Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is triggered when the eye develops extra blood vessels that cover the duct where the natural fluid of the eye should drain from. The disease is often caused by diabetes or high blood pressure. Symptoms include pain or redness in the eye and vision loss.

  • Pigmentary Glaucoma: This type occurs when the pigment in the iris flakes off and blocks fluid drainage. People who tend to have this type of glaucoma are young, Caucasian males with near-sighted vision. Symptoms of this condition include blurry vision or seeing rainbow-colored rings when looking at lights, especially during or after exercising.

  • Exfoliation Glaucoma: Sometimes referred to as pseudo-exfoliation, this is a type of open-angle glaucoma. This condition occurs when the eye creates extra ocular fibers or materials, and when they’re shed the extra material can deposit on parts of the eye that prevents fluid from draining. Exfoliation glaucoma can be genetically inherited.

  • Uveitic Glaucoma: This condition is most common in people who have chronic cases of swelling and inflammation in the eye, which increases eye pressure. It’s unclear to experts how uveitic glaucoma is caused, but it’s theorized that the inflammation caused by this condition can scar eye tissue, which subsequently damages or blocks part of the eye where fluid drains out.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

Some common risk factors that can lead to glaucoma include: 

  • Age 

  • Being of African American, Hispanic, or Latino descent 

  • A family history of glaucoma 

  • Diabetes 

  • High blood pressure 

  • Circulatory disease 

  • High refractive corrections 

  • Past eye injuries 

  • Long-term use of steroid medications, especially steroid eye drops

Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?

Because the triggers of glaucoma are virtually unknown, there are no real strategies for prevention. If you are taking medications like steroid eye drops or oral steroids for long periods of time, you may want to talk to your doctor about the risks involved with these medications.

You can also take steps to control chronic health issues that could increase your chances of developing glaucoma. This may include controlling your blood sugar if you have diabetes, lowering your blood pressure, and exercising regularly. While the development of glaucoma can be difficult to prevent, it is possible to prevent vision loss if it is caught early enough and treatment with eye drops or laser therapy is introduced.

Early-stage glaucoma often doesn't have any symptoms, but your eye doctor will be able to diagnose it during a routine eye exam. Seeing your eye doctor regularly is key to staying ahead of the development of diseases like glaucoma and possibly even treating it before it can cause any vision problems. 

Effectively Diagnose and Manage Glaucoma at EyeCare Associates

While glaucoma can be difficult to prevent, catching the disease early is the best way to safeguard your eyes against vision loss. Treatments such as eye drops or laser therapy can greatly reduce vision loss and nerve damage if caught early. Early-stage glaucoma often doesn't have any symptoms, but our vision team will be able to diagnose it during a routine eye exam.

Regularly visiting an eye doctor is crucial to staying ahead of the development of diseases like glaucoma and getting the proper treatment for every variant of this disease.

Routine eye exams allow the team at EyeCare Associates to detect eye disease and conditions before vision loss or impairment occurs. Our doctors specialize in glaucoma care and can help you maintain the best vision possible. Schedule an eye exam today

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