Glaucoma eye disease

Close up of an older man's eye with signs of glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that silently and painlessly steal your eyesight. It is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States and is commonly referred to as the silent thief. Why? Because nearly 50 percent of people with this condition don’t even realize they’re slowly going blind.

Glaucoma is often asymptomatic, and its effects are gradual, so you may not experience any warning signs until this eye disease is advanced. This is one of the many reasons it’s so important to get your eyes checked regularly, even if you don’t need corrective lenses. Early detection and careful, lifelong treatment can, in most cases, help you maintain your eyesight. Eye Specialists of Louisiana recommend this screening schedule for glaucoma:

  • under 40, every 2-4 years
  • age 40-54, every 1-3 years
  • age 55-64, every 1-2 years
  • over 65, every 6-12 months

All types of glaucoma can damage the optic nerve in your eye. The fluid inside your eye, called aqueous humor, typically flows out of your eye through a mesh-like channel. For those with glaucoma, this channel gets blocked, and the liquid builds up, causing excess pressure in the eye. This excess pressure can damage your vision by destroying the optic nerve, which sends images to the brain.

Peripheral (side) vision is lost first and, if left untreated, vision loss progresses toward the center of your visual field. This can lead to blindness within a few years. There are several types of glaucoma eye disease; however, two are the most prominent:

  • Open-angle glaucoma

Open-angle means the angle where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be. Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly and is a lifelong condition that accounts for nearly 90% of all cases in the United States. 

This condition is caused by the slow clogging of the eye’s drainage canals, which leads to increased pressure in the eye and optic nerve damage. In severe cases, symptoms may include patchy blind spots or tunnel vision in one or both of your eyes.

  • Angle-closure glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma is less common than open-angle and occurs when the angle between the iris and cornea is more narrow and closed than it should be. This results in blocked drainage canals, noticeable symptoms, and damage resulting from a sudden rise in intraocular pressure. 

Symptoms include severe headache, eye pain, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, halos around lights, and eye redness. If you experience one or more symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma, immediately go to your nearest emergency room.

Common risk factors for glaucoma

While the exact cause of glaucoma eye disease remains unknown, several risk factors may increase your risk, including:

  • Aged 60 and older
  • African-American or Hispanic descent
  • Elevated or high eye pressure
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Extreme nearsightedness (more than -5.0) or farsightedness (more than +5.00)
  • Medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sickle cell anemia

Protect your eyesight from silent thieves like glaucoma eye disease with regular, comprehensive eye exams. Please call Eye Specialists of Louisiana at 255-768-7777 to schedule an eye exam or determine if surgical treatment is right for you.