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 EYE TOPICS:  GLAUCOMA

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is vital to good vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. It can occur at any age but is more common in older adults.

The most common form of glaucoma has no warning signs. The effect is so gradual that you may not notice a change in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage.

Vision loss due to glaucoma can't be recovered. So it's important to have regular eye exams that include measurements of your eye pressure. If glaucoma is recognized early, vision loss can be slowed or prevented. If you have the condition, you'll generally need treatment for the rest of your life.

CAUSES

Glaucoma is the result of damage to the optic nerve. As this nerve gradually deteriorates, blind spots develop in your visual field. For reasons that doctors don't fully understand, this nerve damage is usually related to increased pressure in the eye.

Elevated eye pressure is due to a buildup of a fluid (aqueous humor) that flows throughout your eye. This fluid normally drains into the front of the eye (anterior chamber) through tissue (trabecular meshwork) at the angle where the iris and cornea meet. When fluid is overproduced or the drainage system doesn't work properly, the fluid can't flow out at its normal rate and pressure builds up.


OPEN ANGLE GLAUCOMA

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease. The drainage angle formed by the cornea and iris remains open, but the trabecular meshwork is partially blocked. This causes pressure in the eye to gradually increase. This pressure damages the optic nerve. It happens so slowly that you may lose vision before you're even aware of a problem.


ANGLE-CLOSURE GLAUCOMA

Angle-closure glaucoma, also called closed-angle glaucoma, occurs when the iris bulges forward to narrow or block the drainage angle formed by the cornea and iris. As a result, fluid can't circulate through the eye and pressure increases. Some people have narrow drainage angles, putting them at increased risk of angle-closure glaucoma.

Angle-closure glaucoma may occur suddenly (acute angle-closure glaucoma) or gradually (chronic angle-closure glaucoma). Acute angle glaucoma is a medical emergency. It can be triggered by sudden dilation of your pupils.


NORMAL TENSION GLAUCOMA

In normal-tension glaucoma, your optic nerve becomes damaged even though your eye pressure is within the normal range. No one knows the exact reason for this. You may have a sensitive optic nerve, or you may have less blood being supplied to your optic nerve. This limited blood flow could be caused by atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty deposits (plaques) in the arteries — or other conditions that impair circulation.


PIGMENTARY GLAUCOMA

In pigmentary glaucoma, pigment granules from your iris build up in the drainage channels, slowing or blocking fluid exiting your eye. Activities such as jogging sometimes stir up the pigment granules, depositing them on the trabecular meshwork and causing intermittent pressure elevations.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT GLAUCOMA, VISIT THE MAYO CLINIC WEBSITE:  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/basics/definition/con-20024042
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