Glaucoma is suffered by millions of people and is the No. 2 cause of blindness. However, many people do not realize they have this disorder until it has already progressed significantly. It is important for everyone to be informed about the disease and its causes.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a cluster of closely related diseases. Each of them causes progressive, irreversible vision loss by gradually destroying the optic nerve. Although the damage cannot be treated, the progress of glaucoma can be slowed or stopped with appropriate measures.
What are the Different Types of Glaucoma?
All varieties of glaucoma occur as a result of increased pressure within the eye (called inner-ocular pressure.) There are several different kinds of glaucoma. Some are rare, while others are common. The main forms of the disease are:
- Primary Open Angle Glaucoma: The typical form of glaucoma, it affects three million Americans. It occurs when the eye’s natural drainage mechanisms become less efficient and clog over time.
- Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This rare form of glaucoma occurs when the eye’s drainage canals become completely blocked or covered. Since inner eye pressure rises quickly, it can lead to substantial damage in a short time.
- Normal-Tension Glaucoma: This form of glaucoma is experienced mainly by people of Asian origin. Ocular nerve damages occurs even though inner eye pressure readings are very close to normal.
What are Risk Factors of Glaucoma?
What causes glaucoma? A family history of the disease is the biggest risk factor. Unlike many diseases, lifestyle factors are not decisive in most cases of glaucoma. Instead, genetic factors play the biggest role. This leaves certain populations at much greater risk than others.
Groups with above average glaucoma risk include:
- African-Americans, who face glaucoma risk six times higher than Caucasians;
- People of Hispanic descent, particularly those who are aged 60 and older;
- People of Asian descent, especially those of Japanese ancestry.
Glaucoma risk increases across all groups with age. People aged 60 and older are much more likely than others to suffer glaucoma. Other medical conditions can increase glaucoma risk, especially hypertension, extreme nearsightedness and physical trauma to the eye.
Signs of glaucoma can be subtle at first, and a glaucoma test is the best way to find out whether or not you have the condition. For more on glaucoma symptoms and treatment, see Part 2 of our series. To make an appointment, contact Eye to Eye Care.