Our eyes might be one of the most important things in our bodies. Sure, nowadays, you can live a great life without your eyesight, but let’s be honest: everyone deserves to see the sun come up and see it set. Taking care of our eyes is therefore incredibly important. In the United States, eye disorders are a common health problem. One of these disorders is glaucoma and about 3 million Americans are suffering from this – and about 50% don’t even know they have it. Globally it is the second leading cause of blindness, which makes it crucial to know as much as possible about the disease.
What Is Glaucoma?
We already know glaucoma is an eye disease and that it can cause someone to go (partly) blind. The big question is: what does glaucoma do to the eye? Officially it’s a term for a group of diseases that damage your eye’s optic nerve. The optic nerve is the part of your eye that sends visual information to the brain. Your brain needs this information to create images. The damage is often caused by high pressure – also called intraocular pressure – in your eye.
Causes & Risk Factors
How is this pressure caused you might wonder? Well, usually the fluid – aqueous humor – in your eye should flow out through a small channel. If this channel gets blocked, pressure will rise, because the fluid cannot escape the eye. It doesn’t always have to do with a blocked channel. It can also be that too much fluid is being produced in the eye and then that channel cannot drain the fluid fast enough. Other rare causes of glaucoma are:
- Eye injury
- Severe eye infection
- Blocked blood vessels in the eye
- Inflammatory diseases
- Eye surgery
Glaucoma may affect everyone, regardless of gender or race, but this risk increases the older we get. People over the age of 40, are more at risk. Unfortunately, African Americans and Latinos are more at risk to get glaucoma than other races, and to make it even worse: they also tend to develop eye disease earlier in life. Other risk factors are:
- High blood pressure
- Family history of glaucoma
- Use of certain medication
- Have diabetes, heart disease, or sickle cell anemia
- thinner corneas than normally
There are different types of glaucoma and all of them have different causes, risk factors, and, above all, symptoms. Continue reading on the next page and find out what types and warning signs of glaucoma exist.