Understanding Glaucoma Symptoms and Risk Factors

November 16, 2016 — by Dr. Gregory Stainer
Tags: Glaucoma Eye Care

Hazy visionGlaucoma is an incurable eye condition that affects more than three million Americans. The condition is the second-leading cause of blindness and is most common among adults over the age of 60. At Southwest Eye Care and Laser, we educate patients on glaucoma symptoms and risk factors during appointments at our Bakersfield, CA office. Although we cannot cure glaucoma, if detected early, we can take steps to lessen its effects and reduce the risk of vision loss.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Unfortunately, the most common type of glaucoma, open-angle, presents few early warning signs. This makes regular eye exams critical to early detection. Patients over the age of 40 with low risk of glaucoma should get a glaucoma screening every four years, in addition to an annual or bi-annual eye exam. Patients with higher risk or those over the age of 65 should get a glaucoma screening every two years. If you experience any of the below symptoms, you may have open-angle glaucoma and you should seek immediate treatment.

  • Blind spots in either your peripheral or central vision in one or both eyes
  • Tunnel vision, or no peripheral vision

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is less common, but often results in more severe symptoms. If you experience any combination of the following symptoms, you should contact our office immediately, or get to an emergency room.

  • Severe headache and eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Glowing halos around lights at night
  • Red eyes

Glaucoma Risk Factors

There are certain factors that can put you at a greater risk for developing glaucoma. Unfortunately, many of these factors are beyond your control. The best way to prevent glaucoma and minimize its effects on your vision is to get regular screenings if you are at a high risk for the condition. Because glaucoma is characterized by high intraocular pressure, having above-average internal eye pressure is the primary risk factor. You may have a high risk of developing glaucoma if you:

  • Are over the age of 60
  • Are Hispanic or African-American
  • Have a family history of the condition
  • Have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, or sickle cell anemia
  • Are nearsighted
  • Had an eye injury that damaged the optic nerve
  • Used corticosteroid eye drops long term
  • Have an estrogen deficiency

It is important to note that eye surgeries like LASIK have not been linked to glaucoma. However, laser vision correction can make accurately diagnosing glaucoma later on more difficult.

Treatment Options

When detected early, there are a variety of treatment options available for glaucoma. Oral or topical medications are often the first line of treatment prescribed. The aim of these medications is to reduce intraocular pressure (IOP), typically by increasing fluid in the eyes. While your doctor may prescribe just one medication to start, sometimes a combination of topical and oral medications are needed to successfully reduce IOP. If medications prove ineffective, or your glaucoma is already fairly advanced, surgical options are also available. These laser surgical procedures enhance fluid out-flow to reduce IOP.

Learn More about Glaucoma Treatment

If you are at risk for glaucoma or you are experiencing any symptoms, we urge you to schedule an appointment immediately so we can begin treatment promptly.

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