What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition that harms the optic nerve and causes vision loss. It is typically caused by too much pressure in the eye. When left untreated, glaucoma can even cause total blindness. In fact, it is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 60. When vision is lost due to glaucoma, there is no way to recover it. Understanding what happens when a person has glaucoma and its risk factors may help older adults to receive care sooner so that vision loss can be minimized.
Two Kinds of Glaucoma.
The abnormal pressure in the eye that occurs when a person has glaucoma is the result of fluid buildup. Normally, the fluid in the eye circulates and moves out of the eye via a channel. If that channel becomes blocked, the liquid cannot move out of the eye and the excess fluid causes pressure.
Doctors don’t know what causes the channel to become blocked. However, they do know that glaucoma tends to run in families. In some instances, the damage to the channel may be caused by trauma to the eye or an infection. In rare cases, surgery meant to correct some other problem brings about glaucoma.
There are two main kinds of glaucoma. They are:
- Open-angle Glaucoma: Open-angle glaucoma is also called wide-angle glaucoma. In this type, the part of the eye the fluid should drain through looks normal, but doesn’t drain properly. This is the most common kind of glaucoma and comes on gradually. There are often no symptoms when it begins.
- Angle-closure Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is sometimes called acute or chronic angle-closure glaucoma. It is more common in Asia. This kind of glaucoma occurs because the angle between the cornea and the iris is too small to allow for proper drainage.
If the older adult in your life has the following risk factors, it is important that they have regular eye exams:
- Over age 60.
- Hispanic, African-American, Russian, Japanese, Irish, Inuit, or of Scandinavian descent.
- Family history of glaucoma.
- Diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, or high blood pressure.
- Poor vision.
- Eye trauma.
Because glaucoma may have no initial symptoms, it’s important that older adults have regular eye exams and be screened for the condition. When glaucoma is caught early, it can be controlled. Treatments used for glaucoma include eye drops, laser surgery, and microsurgery.
If the older adult in your life has vision loss due to glaucoma, hiring a senior care provider through an agency can help them to remain more independent. A senior care provider can drive them to appointments, take them grocery shopping, or drive them to social engagements. A senior care provider can also assist your parent with tasks that are difficult because of vision loss.