Glaucoma is a term that covers several eye diseases that gradually lead to blindness. These conditions have few warning signs and very few symptoms. The first sign is generally the loss of peripheral vision.
There are two major types of glaucoma, although there are several categories of the disease within each type. Glaucoma and cataracts are often thought of as the same disease, but the two illnesses, while often seen together, are unrelated.
The first type is chronic or primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). POAG is caused by the eye canal becoming blocked and forces pressure in the eye to rise due to lack of drainage. This form affects more than three million Americans and, if caught early, responds well to treatment. Without regular eye exams, POAG causes gradual vision loss and is often un-repairable if diagnosed too late.
The second major type is known as acute or angle closure glaucoma. It is not as common as POAG and differs in that the pressure in the eye develops at a faster rate. This type is characterized by the iris and cornea not opening fully as they should. Treatment generally involves surgery to trim the outer edges of the iris. Symptoms can include blurred vision, headaches and nausea.
Other types of the disease can include normal tension, secondary, pigmentary, traumatic, and neovascular glaucomas.
Glaucoma can also be heredity, especially in those with a family history of the disease or of Japanese descent. Others at risk include those with heart problems or those who have suffered eye injuries.
Prevention is the key to keep from developing glaucoma in any form. Regular eye exams and talks with an eye specialist can help to diagnose the disease early enough for treatment. Glaucoma is the number one cause of blindness in the world and the second leading cause in the United States. With proper eye care, glaucoma-induced blindness can be prevented.