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What is Glaucoma: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

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Dr. Marc Weinstein

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Glaucoma is a complex group of eye conditions that can cause blindness. It’s normal to feel a little overwhelmed or scared when learning about these conditions. But here’s the good news: Glaucoma is treatable, and catching it early can help protect your eyesight.

Here’s what you need to know about glaucoma, including the symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

What is Glaucoma

The definition of Glaucoma is: a group of eye conditions that cause optic nerve damage. Optic nerves are cord-like bundles of fibers at the back of each eye that tell your brain what you’re seeing. If glaucoma damages them, you could experience vision loss.

Glaucoma Symptoms

There are several types of glaucoma, so symptoms of glaucoma can vary. Talk to your doctor if you experience any of the following:

Gradual Issues With Peripheral Vision

Glaucoma sometimes causes blurry or dim peripheral eyesight. In the early stages, it may look like something is blocking the outer edge of your vision. In the later stages, it may seem like you're looking through a tube — objects right in front of you are clear, but anything to the side is blurry or invisible.

Eye Pain

Many common conditions cause eye pain, from allergies to minor injuries. However, glaucoma also causes eye pain. Glaucoma pain can be gradual and ongoing or sudden and intense. Seek immediate medical attention if the pain is sudden and intense — especially if you also experience other glaucoma symptoms. Otherwise, talk to your doctor about testing for glaucoma if you frequently experience low-grade discomfort.

Consistent Headaches

Glaucoma headaches often develop around the eyes and forehead. Occasional headaches are common, but you should talk to your doctor if you experience them frequently.

Blurred Vision

Many people have blurry vision due to nearsightedness or farsightedness. These are common conditions, and they don’t cause blindness. However, blurred vision can also result from glaucoma. Ask your doctor about getting an eye exam if you experience new or worsening blurry vision.

Halos or Colored Rings Around Lights

Seeing halos or colored rings around lights can be a symptom of astigmatism, a common condition that does not cause blindness. However, halos and colored rings may also be signs of glaucoma. Seek immediate medical attention if the halos or rings appear suddenly — this is a sign of a medical emergency.

Cloudy Vision

Glaucoma often causes cloudy vision in its early stages. Talk to your doctor about getting an eye exam if you have new or worsening cloudiness in your eyesight.

What Causes Glaucoma

A lot of things can cause glaucoma. In many cases, fluid in the front of the eye doesn’t drain properly, which puts excessive pressure on the optic nerve. Other times, the optic nerve doesn’t get enough blood flow due to a build-up of fat in the arteries. Diabetes can also cause glaucoma due to the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

No matter the cause, glaucoma is defined by optic nerve damage. This damage usually happens gradually, so catching the symptoms early is key to preventing vision loss.

Glaucoma Treatment Options

Glaucoma treatment varies from person to person. However, most treatment options focus on reducing pressure on the optic nerve. Here are the most common treatments and how they work:

Medicated Eye Drops

Doctors might prescribe medicated eye drops when glaucoma is caused by excessive fluid in the front of the eye. These eye drops help the fluid drain more efficiently, reducing pressure on the optic nerve.

Laser Surgery

There are a few kinds of laser surgeries for glaucoma. Sometimes, the surgeon uses lasers to improve the eye’s drainage system so built-up fluid flows out more easily. Other times, the surgeon creates a tiny hole in the iris to help fluid escape from the front of the eye. Laser surgeries for glaucoma only take about 10 minutes and are outpatient procedures.

Operating Room Surgery

There are several types of operating room surgeries for glaucoma. Often, the surgeon improves the eye’s drainage system by implanting a tiny drain tube or by adding a drain flap. Either way, the fluid in the front of the eye can drain better, which reduces pressure on the optic nerve.

How to Prevent Glaucoma

Glaucoma is usually hereditary, so it’s difficult to prevent it entirely. However, many people with the condition can prevent vision loss by catching symptoms early and starting treatment. Follow these steps to reduce your risk and protect your eyesight:

1. Know Your Family History

You’re more likely to get glaucoma if you have family members with the condition. Fortunately, your doctor can catch symptoms early if they know about your family history.

2. Get Regular Eye Exams

Most people should get yearly eye exams to maintain healthy vision. If you have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, talk to your doctor about getting more frequent exams to monitor your eye health.

3. Follow Your Doctor's Treatment Plan

Doctors might recommend daily eye drops or certain procedures to prevent damage to the optic nerve. Follow your doctor’s treatment plan to protect your eyesight.

4. Wear Eye Protection

Eye injuries can trigger certain types of glaucoma. Wear eye protection such as safety glasses and anti-UV sunglasses to protect your vision.

39DollarGlasses Is Here To Help

Glaucoma is a complex condition, but that doesn’t mean it’s unmanageable. You can maintain healthy eyes by getting regular eye exams and following your doctor’s recommendations.

If you still have questions about glaucoma, we’re here to help. 39DollarGlasses doesn’t just sell affordable glasses. As a doctor-run company, we’re passionate about helping you understand all things eye health. Contact our team to learn more about maintaining healthy eyesight. And while you’re here, don’t forget to explore our collection of high-quality, affordable eyeglasses. Shop our new arrivals and find your perfect glasses today!

Glaucoma FAQs

Is Glaucoma Hereditary?

There are numerous types of glaucoma, and several of them are hereditary. Tell your doctor about any family members with the condition and get regular eye exams to protect your eyesight.

Can Glaucoma be Cured?

There isn’t yet a cure for glaucoma. However, you can prevent vision loss by treating the condition early. Talk to your doctor about any family history of glaucoma and get regular eye exams to maintain healthy vision.