Glaucoma is caused by fluid retention in the anterior chamber of the eye. If the anterior chamber isn't able to drain the fluid efficiently, pressure builds until the optic nerve sustains damage. Since the optic nerve is critical for transmission of visual information, this damage can result in partial or complete vision loss.
The cause of this fluid accumulation isn't always known, but glaucoma does appear to have a family connection: If a close family member suffers from glaucoma, a person has a higher chance of having it themselves. Other potential causes of glaucoma include eye tumors, eye infections, eye injuries, and blocked blood vessels within the eyes.
While glaucoma can happen at any age, it's most common in people age 40 and older. It's even more prevalent in people over 60. It's possible for anyone from any group to have glaucoma, but African American and Hispanic patients have an increased risk of developing the disease. Family risk is especially high if a person's mother or father had glaucoma.
The two primary types of glaucoma are open angle glaucoma and angle closure glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most frequently occurring form of the disease. In this kind of glaucoma, the trabecular meshwork -- the eye's drain structure -- appears healthy, but it doesn't allow proper fluid flow.
In angle-closure glaucoma, the eye isn't able to drain properly because the iris interferes. Essentially, the angle in between the eye's iris and its cornea isn't wide enough, and this causes pressure accumulation. Both types of glaucoma are serious and require treatment.
Glaucoma may not have any symptoms at all for most people. Because of that, it's especially vital for all patients to undergo regular eye examinations.
Symptoms can arise in some cases, though. In the later stages of glaucoma, symptoms like narrowing side vision may be observed. In the final stages of glaucoma, a steady decline in vision is the most obvious symptom.
Glaucoma treatment is approached on an individual basis. While there isn't currently a cure for glaucoma, there are treatments that can dramatically slow the progression of the disease. Some of the treatment options include medicated prescription eye drops, oral medications, and laser surgery. The doctors at Cataract & Vision Center of Hawaii can also do more invasive surgeries when needed.
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