Could YOU Be at Risk of Glaucoma?
This condition of the eyes also affects celebrities like comedienne Whoopi Goldberg and musician Bono of U2. But it’s not just the rich and famous – how about the rest of us – what increases our risk of Glaucoma?
Whats On This Page
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma. It’s a term for a group of diseases that leads to damage of the optic nerve (the nerve responsible for eyesight).
It means there is a gradual progressive loss of your ability to see until it results in total blindness.
Glaucoma happens because of high pressure within the eye which damages the nerve.
Types/Forms of Glaucoma
There are different forms of Glaucoma: open-angle type and closed-angle type.
- Closed-angle glaucoma is associated with the sudden development of an intense eye ache and headache that usually forces an individual to come to the hospital.
- Whoopi Goldberg, the famous Actress, suffers from this type.
- It is also known as ‘narrow-angle’ or angle-closure glaucoma.
- On the other hand, open-angle type usually shows no apparent signs or symptoms until the damage is severe.
- The absence of symptoms means people with the condition only come to the hospital when it is too late.
Glaucoma can also be primary or secondary.
- Primary is when the condition develops without any known cause;
- Secondary occurs when it develops after an injury to the eye, such as after trauma or surgery.
More about Glaucoma
It is a ‘silent disease’ and the second cause of blindness worldwide.
Early detection and prevention of blindness caused by this condition are only possible when individuals at risk of glaucoma get regular eye checks.
Doing so allows affected individuals who hardly notice symptoms before the damage caused by this condition is severe to get treatment sooner.
Damage caused by all forms of this condition is usually treated by the ophthalmologist (eye specialist).
When examining your eye with an ophthalmoscope, they may find signs like ‘cupping of the optic disc’, which occurs due to damage of the fibres of the optic nerve.
Other extensive tests can confirm this diagnosis and can pick up other changes unnoticed by the affected individual.
Some Glaucoma Effects
When a large quantity of optic nerve fibres is lost, people with glaucoma begin to have something called ‘Tunnel vision’.
With tunnel vision, you gradually lose the ability to see your sides without turning your head, and your vision becomes narrower until it is all lost.
Examples of sight changes in glaucoma could be missing a stair while you walk, or having an accident from misjudging distance when you drive.
You may also notice letters missing from words when you read.
Who is At Risk ?
Knowing your risk of developing glaucoma is crucial because it guides you on how often you should go for regular eye-checks with your ophthalmologist.
Features of individuals at risk of glaucoma include:
- Having a high ‘intraocular’ pressure (pressure inside the eye) on eye examination.
- Your race is a significant risk
- Individuals of African descent; West Africans have a four-fold risk of developing open-angle glaucoma
- Other races like Hispanics are also at risk.
- People of East Asian descent are at risk of Closed-Angle glaucoma.
- Your genes – individuals whose family members have Glaucoma; especially close family members like parents, siblings or children carry a higher risk.
- People who use certain medicines like steroids frequently as eyedrops or in other forms can develop Glaucoma.
- Individuals with severe shortsightedness or near sight (myopia) are at risk of open-angle glaucoma.
- People with farsight/ Hyperopia have a higher probability of developing close-angle glaucoma.
- People who have had previous eye infections, surgery like cataract repair or some form of trauma to the eye.
- Medical conditions like Diabetes and High Blood pressure could also affect your risk.
- The risk increases as people grow older – from age 50 years on.
What Should You Do About Glaucoma?
Glaucoma causes progressive, irreversible silent damage.
This means that once it starts, the eye damage continues, and current treatments cannot take the eyesight to what it was beforehand.
Knowledge of your risks at developing this condition puts you a step ahead.
If you have one or more of these risks, it is more important than ever for you to ensure that you visit the ophthalmologist regularly at least once yearly after the age of 40 and particularly after 55 years.
What’s the biggest challenge to supporting your eye health – access to the right health information, or local eye clinics? Share with us in the comments below.
- Emedicine.medscape.com. (2019). Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG): Practice Essentials, Background, Pathophysiology.
- Glaucoma Research Foundation. (2019). Are You at Risk For Glaucoma?
- Gordon, M. (2002). The Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study. Archives of Ophthalmology, 120(6), p.714.
- Jonas, J., Aung, T., Bourne, R., Bron, A., Ritch, R. and Panda-Jonas, S. (2017). Glaucoma. The Lancet, [online] 390(10108), pp.2183-2193.
- Mahabadi, N., Foris, L. and Tripathy, K. (2019). Open Angle Glaucoma.
- Medpagetoday.com. (2017). Glaucoma Diagnosis and Treatment: Current Practice and Future Directions.
- Weinreb, R., Aung, T. and Medeiros, F. (2014). The Pathophysiology and Treatment of Glaucoma. JAMA, 311(18), p.1901.
Edited by AskAwayHealth Team
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