How To Prevent Glaucoma From Silently Stealing Your Eyesight

Health & Medical Blog

Glaucoma occurs with few symptoms until your vision has been permanently damaged. Regular glaucoma testing is necessary to catch this eye disease before there is a problem. Here is how this disease affects your eyes and how to prevent it from slowly taking away your vision.

It's a Matter of Pressure

The round shape of the eye is maintained by a gel-like fluid that fills the eyeball. Called vitreous humor, new fluid is continuously produced to replace old fluid that drains from the eye. Your body maintains just the right amount of fluid in the eye to keep its shape.

When this pressure mechanism fails, the pressure in the eye changes. Glaucoma slows down the drainage of fluid from the eye and increases the production of vitreous humor. This increases the pressure in the eye which puts stress on the internal structures, especially the optic nerve. If the pressure is not regulated, the optic nerve can be damaged causing partial or total blindness.

Increasing the Risk of Glaucoma

Doctors don't know what causes glaucoma to occur in some people, but not others. They do know of several conditions which increase your risk of developing this eye disease.

  • family history of eye disease
  • structural changes in the eye due to aging
  • heart disease and high blood pressure
  • weight gain that contributes to hypertension
  • diabetic changes to the eye

When Symptoms Do Occur

Many people experience no symptoms until they begin to notice changes in their vision. When they do, the symptoms may include:

  • soft rings (halos) around bright lights when viewed at night
  • reddish color to the white part of the eye
  • painful throbbing in the eye
  • loss of peripheral vision while your central vision is clear (tunnel vision)

Diagnosing Glaucoma

During your regular eye examination, your doctor will look for any signs of glaucoma. If they determine that you are at a higher risk of the disease, they may have you come in for more frequent glaucoma exams. These tests take only a few minutes and include:

  • looking into the eye at the optic nerve for signs of damage
  • checking the pressure of the fluid in the eye
  • testing your eyesight for any loss of peripheral vision

Treating Glaucoma

This disease has no cure, so the treatments are to prevent pressure in your eye from damaging the optic nerve. Existing damage to the nerve cannot be reversed so it's important that you have frequent glaucoma screenings to identify a pressure problem before it impacts your vision. The current treatment options include:

  • Medications (eye drops) - Drops are placed in the eye to reduce the production of vitreous humor and to increase the drainage of fluid from the eye. If you have signs of glaucoma, you'll use these drops regularly for the rest of your life.
  • Medications (injections) - In cases of severe eye pressure, a medication can be injected directly into the eye to slow production of fluid. This treatment will also need to be continued regularly.
  • Surgery - An eye surgeon will attempt to open up the channels that drain fluid from the eye. The surgeon may also create new channels to increase drainage to regulate the pressure in the eye.

To learn more about glaucoma, speak with an eye surgeon like Todd S. Kirk, MD.


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