Every winter across the US, heavy rains bring thoughts of flooding, backed up drainage systems and overflowing streets. When the drains and city sewers get clogged, the overflow of winter rains can bring a once bustling community to a grinding halt. Like the back up caused by winter's inevitable down pour, poor drainage of a person's eye can lead to high eye pressure which is a cause of Glaucoma. The vision loss can be devastating and drastically change the life of a once active adult. In fact, nearly three million people have glaucoma, but half do not realize it because there are often no warning symptoms.
In a healthy eye, fluid is constantly being made and drained through a microscopic, drainage canal. When something blocks or prevents this natural drainage, the pressure inside the eye goes up. Glaucoma is often caused by increased pressure that can develop when the fluids in the eye are not draining properly. This condition eventually damages the nerve that connects the eye to the brain (the optic nerve) and leads to loss of vision.
What are the symptoms for Glaucoma?
While occasionally, the condition may come on suddenly; most cases progress so slowly there are often no warning signs before damage inside the eye has already occurred. In most cases, a person’s side vision (peripheral vision) is noticeably affected.
Who is at risk?
While the causes for glaucoma are not completely known, we do know that risk factors for its development include family history, race and older age. Glaucoma may affect people of any age from newborns to the elderly but is more common in adults as they approach their senior years. African-Americans, Hispanics and people with diabetes are also at higher risk of getting the disease.
How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma can be treated with any of the following:
• Eye drops that lower eye pressure
• Laser therapy that allows for better drainage of fluids inside the eye
• Eye surgery to create a new drainage canal
If not treated, glaucoma can and does lead to total blindness. Glaucoma is easily detected with a medical eye examination. Ophthalmologists (medical eye doctors) can measure the pressure inside the eye with a quick and painless, office test. Glaucoma doesn’t have to interfere with leading a happy, sighted and fulfilling life. Detecting the disease early can save your sight!