Did you know that about 3 million people in the US have glaucoma and that it is the second leading cause of blindness in the world? Despite being so widespread, many people who have glaucoma don’t even know it, as many times there are no early symptoms to indicate that something is wrong. However, regular eye exams can help detect glaucoma, even if you have no overt signs that you have it. Read on to learn more about the signs of glaucoma that you should be aware of and should not ignore.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease that progressively gets worse. It happens when the pressure in your eye, called intraocular pressure, gets too high. This high pressure damaged the optic nerve and can quickly lead to vision loss and progress to blindness if it goes untreated.
This is the most common type of glaucoma and is also called wide-angle glaucoma. This occurs when the drain structure in your eye, the trabecular meshwork, doesn’t allow fluid to flow out of your eye properly. This allows the fluid and the pressure to build in your eye.
This is also called acute or chronic angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma. This is a rare type of glaucoma and only about 1 in 1000 people will develop this. With this type of glaucoma, your eye does not drain because the space between the cornea and iris is too narrow.
When this occurs, pressure in your eye builds up. This type of glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40 but usually doesn’t develop until between ages 60 and 70. It’s most common among women, those who are farsighted, and those with cataracts.
Normal Tension Glaucoma
Normal tension glaucoma occurs when your eye pressure is within the normal range, but you still have blind spots in your vision and a damaged optic nerve. The reasons for this damage are unknown. It may be due to a sensitive optic nerve or a limited blood flow to your optic nerve.
Conditions that impact circulation, such as atherosclerosis, may contribute to normal tension glaucoma.
Pigment Dispersion Glaucoma and Pigmentary Glaucoma
Pigment dispersion syndrome (PDS) happens when tiny bits of pigment from your iris, which is the colored part of your eye, get into the fluid inside of your eye. When this happens, the bits of pigment clog the drainage canals in your eye, allowing pressure to build up.
Certain activities can also irritate this condition, such as running or playing basketball. These things can stir up the granules and deposit them on the trabecular meshwork of your eye.
Secondary glaucoma occurs when another condition causes glaucoma. Ailments like cataracts of diabetes can increase the pressure in your eye, causing glaucoma.
What Are the Signs of Glaucoma?
Many types of glaucoma do not have any early warning signs. In a lot of cases, many patients with glaucoma are asymptomatic until an eye doctor diagnoses it during an eye exam. There are some warning signs, though, that should not be ignored.
When the pressure in your eyes rises, the fluid that is usually pushed out of the cornea is instead pushed into it. This makes your eye look cloudy and water-logged. You can easily see cloudy eyes in the mirror, so if you notice it, have it checked by your doctor right away.
Loss of Vision
Any loss of vision in one or both eyes could signify a serious problem and be treated as an emergency. It may not be glaucoma but could be something even more serious, such as a stroke.
Glaucoma causes gradual vision loss, so if there is a sudden loss of vision or a blind spot, you should see a doctor immediately. Stopping the progression of glaucoma is much more likely if it is detected and treated early.
Halos Around Lights
A halo is a bright circle around a light or light source. It may look like a headlight. If you see these halos, you could have cataracts or glaucoma.
Sudden and severe eye pain is one of the most notable signs of glaucoma. The pressure that results in glaucoma can cause eye redness, headache, nausea, and even vomiting.
Don’t wait to see a doctor if you have severe eye pain; treat it as an emergency and seek care right away.
Increased pressure in your eye can also cause light sensitivity. If your eye is cloudy and watery, light bounces off the cornea irregularly, resulting in a glare. Sensitivity to light can be an early sign of glaucoma.
How to Detect and Prevent Glaucoma
Unfortunately, most types of glaucoma do not have any overt warning signs. The best way to screen for glaucoma is to see your eye doctor regularly, especially if you have any of the risk factors for glaucoma, which include:
- Age (glaucoma is most common in people over the age of 60)
- Genetics (it is a hereditary disease, so if you have a family member with glaucoma, your likelihood of getting it is 4 to 9 times greater)
- Race (people of African and Asian descent are at a higher risk for glaucoma at an early age, as young as 40)
- Medications (certain medications, such as corticosteroids, can raise your glaucoma risk)
- Thin corneas
- Eye trauma
If you have any of these risk factors, especially family members with glaucoma, be sure to tell your doctor and see them regularly to screen for glaucoma. There are also other things you can do, such as eating healthy, taking care to protect your eyes with sunglasses and eye protection when needed, and exercising regularly.
See Your Eye Doctor Today
If it has been some time since you’ve seen your eye doctor or if you are exhibiting any of these signs of glaucoma or have risk factors, be sure to see your doctor as soon as possible. Early detection is your best option for treatment and stopping the progression of glaucoma, so don’t put off regular eye exams.
If you are ready to see an eye doctor, contact us today to schedule your appointment.