Glaucoma is a dangerous disease that can damage your eyesight before you know you have it. The most common glaucoma develops so slowly that it has earned the nickname the silent thief of sight.
It has almost no symptoms and causes you to lose your sight over the years. This slow development makes it difficult to detect as you don’t notice the changes from day to day.
If that wasn’t bad enough, glaucoma is also incurable, and the damage caused by it is permanent.
However, there is still hope even for those who have developed glaucoma. While there is no cure for the disease, it is possible to slow or halt its progression.
If caught early enough, much of the damage from it is avoidable with medication. Keep reading to learn more about glaucoma and find out how you can tell if you have it.
How Glaucoma Steals Your Sight
Glaucoma causes the pressure in your eye, called intraocular pressure (IOP), to rise gradually. Eventually, IOP gets so high that it presses on your optic nerve and damages it.
The optic nerve delivers information from the retina to the brain in the form of nerve impulses. It is a tough cord of tissue, but enough pressure applied for enough time can wear away at it.
This is how glaucoma steals your vision. Damage to the optic nerve is permanent, and once it gets damaged, it can’t send light to your brain.
Blocks in the drainage network of your eye cause increases in IOP. As fluid enters your eye faster than it can exit, pressure builds.
How Glaucoma Eye Drops Can Save Your Vision
During an eye exam, your eye doctor tests you for glaucoma. They measure your current IOP and compare it with baseline pressures to determine if it is too high.
The more frequently you have an eye exam, the more accurately your eye doctor can track your IOP. If you have a spike in pressure between visits, they can investigate further for glaucoma.
If you catch glaucoma early enough, you can avoid vision loss with medication. Glaucoma medications usually come in eye drop form but can also be oral medicines.
They contain chemicals that reduce your IOP in two ways. Either they relax your eye so that fluid can drain from it or reduce the rate at which your eye makes fluid.
In some cases, treating both causes may be necessary.
Open-Angle vs. Narrow-Angle Glaucoma: Which is Worse?
The most common form of glaucoma is primary open-angle glaucoma. This is the type of glaucoma that has a slow buildup of pressure due to a limited clogging of your drainage canal.
It has no symptoms other than gradual vision loss. However, a second, rarer form of glaucoma is much more intense and has pronounced symptoms.
Narrow-angle or angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the drainage system is completely cut off. It leads to a sudden spike in internal eye pressure.
This sudden spike causes very rapid vision loss, accompanied by severe symptoms like:
- Eye pain
- Sudden and painful headaches
- Halos around lights
- Pupils of different sizes
If you notice these symptoms, you should seek help immediately. Angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency. But you can save your vision if you act fast.
Glaucoma is scary, but it doesn’t need to be the end of your sight. Regular eye exams are the easiest way to prevent vision loss to the silent thief of sight.
Schedule an appointment at Westlake Eye Specialists in Austin, TX, to have your eyes checked!