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You may have heard the term Glaucoma, but you may not understand what this disease is. The truth about Glaucoma is that it is not just one eye disease. Rather it is considered to be a group of eye conditions which result in optic nerve damage. This severe nerve damage will over time cause loss of your vision. What is known about Glaucoma and why this happens is that an abnormally high pressure begins to build up inside your eye (intraocular pressure). It is this pressure which usually, but not always, causes this type of damage.

Here in the United States, the Mayo Clinic reports, that Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness today.

This devastating disease is often called the silent thief of sight, since glaucoma can damage your vision so gradually, you may not even notice any loss of vision until the disease is at a very advanced stage.

Unfortunately, the most common type of glaucoma, which is called primary open-angle glaucoma, has no noticeable signs or symptoms except gradual vision loss. With this disease you must begin now to understand preventative measures that you can take and regular examinations over the course of your life, which can properly maintain proper healthy vision.

Having gradual vision loss, is a single factor alone, that should confirm that everyone needs to have a regular exam and test for Glaucoma annually, or at the very least periodic exams depending on your age. The, good news is that early diagnosis and treatment can minimize or could even prevent optic nerve damage and limit glaucoma-related vision loss. It's important to get your eyes examined regularly, and make sure your eye doctor measures your intraocular pressure.

Doctors report that the most common types of glaucoma are primary open-angle glaucoma, and acute angle-closure glaucoma which are known to have completely different symptoms. Let's discuss these types for a few minutes for the purpose of identification.

Primary open-angle glaucoma signs and symptoms include a gradual loss of peripheral vision, and usually happens in both eyes. In later stages, one would experience tunnel vision. One could say that means you could only see a small cirlce of vision like if you would hold up a pipe to look through and only be able to see out the other end of the hole.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma signs and symptoms include severe eye pain, nausea and vomiting accompanying the severe eye pain; sudden onset of visual disturbance which can be more easily clear in low light, blurred vision, halos around lights, and reddening of the eye. This could come quickly, or be brought on by sudden damage to the eye as the result of injury or something like that.

Remember that both open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma can be primary or secondary conditions. Usually they are called primary when the cause is unknown, and are considered secondary when the condition can be traced to a known cause, such as accidental eye injury, inflammation, tumor, advanced cataract or long term and adolescent diabetes. In secondary glaucoma, those signs and symptoms could include those of the primary condition as well as normal glaucoma symptoms.

If you or a loved one have experienced any of these symptoms and haven't been to a doctor for an eye exam this year, then you need to call the Long Vision Center and make an appointment today to see Dr. Long for a Glaucoma test right now. There is no better time than right now to have peace of mind about not having Glaucoma.

Dr. Long believes, as most doctors do, that prevention is the best medicine to begin with. Don't wait for noticeable eye problems to give you cause for concern. Primary open-angle glaucoma gives few warning signs or symptoms until permanent damage has already occurred. Regular eye exams are critical to detecting glaucoma early enough for successful preventive treatment.

As a member in good standing of the AAO, Dr. Long says that The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a comprehensive eye exam for all adults starting at age 40, and every three to five years after that if you don't have any glaucoma risk factors. After age 60, you should be screened every year. If you are African-American or have other risk factors for glaucoma, your doctor likely will recommend periodic eye exams starting between ages 20 and 39, and every one to two years after age 40. Here at Long Vision Center, we agree and ask that you begin right now to consider a regular schedule of periodic eye exams as Dr. Long's patient. We understand how precious your eyesight is to you, and want an opportunity to make sure it stays healthy.

Additional education you need to be aware of, is that a severe headache or pain in your eye or eyebrow, nausea, blurred vision, or rainbow halos around lights may be the symptoms of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack. Paying particular attention is critical if you experience two or more of these symptoms together, seek immediate care at an emergency room or an eye doctor's (ophthalmologist's) office right away.

You may be thinking about the causes for Glaucoma having read about what it is and what some of the basic symptoms are. In most cases, for reasons that doctors don't completely understand, increased pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure) is usually associated with the optic nerve damage that characterizes glaucoma. This pressure comes from a buildup of aqueous humor, a fluid naturally and continuously produced in the front of your eye. While some cases can be traced back to a single factor of why, most diagnosis of this devastating disease are not understood.

What is known, is that the aqueous humor normally exits your eye through a drainage system at the angle where the iris and the cornea meet. When the drainage system doesn't work properly, the aqueous humor can't filter out of the eye at its normal rate, and abnormal pressure builds within your eye.

Here are some details you may be interested in understanding more about:

Primary open-angle glaucoma - In primary open-angle glaucoma, we know that the drainage angle formed by the cornea and the iris remains open, but the microscopic drainage channels in the angle (called the trabecular meshwork) are partially or almost completely blocked. This causes the aqueous humor to drain out of the eye too slowly, and leads to fluid backup and a gradual increase of pressure within your eye. Damage to the optic nerve is painless and so slow that a large portion of your vision can be lost before you're even aware that you even have a problem. Unfortunately an exact cause of primary open-angle glaucoma remains unknown at this time.

Angle-closure glaucoma - Angle-closure glaucoma, which is also known as closed-angle glaucoma, occurs when the iris bulges forward to narrow or block the drainage angle formed by the cornea and the iris. This creates another problem in that the aqueous fluid can no longer reach the trabecular meshwork at the angle, so the eye pressure increases abruptly. Angle-closure glaucoma usually occurs suddenly (acute angle-closure glaucoma), but it can also occur gradually (chronic angle-closure glaucoma).

Research indicates there are many people who develop closed-angle glaucoma, that have an abnormally narrow drainage angle to begin with. This narrow angle may never cause any problems, so it may go undetected for life.

If you have a narrow drainage angle, sudden dilation of your pupils may trigger acute angle-closure glaucoma. Pupils usually become dilated in response to darkness, dim light, stress, excitement and certain medications. These medications include antihistamines, such as desloratadine (Clarinex) and cetirizine (Zyrtec); tricyclic antidepressants, such as doxepin and protriptyline (Vivactil); and eyedrops used to dilate your pupils for a thorough eye exam.

Low-tension glaucoma - Another form of the disease, poorly understood but not uncommon, is called low-tension glaucoma. In this form, optic nerve damage occurs even though eye pressure stays within the normal range. Exactly why this happens is yet unknown. Many doctors and experts in this field believe that people with low-tension glaucoma may have an abnormally sensitive optic nerve, or a reduced blood supply to the optic nerve caused by atherosclerosis which is an accumulation of fatty deposits (plaques) in the arteries, or some other condition which directly limits circulation. It is under these circumstances, when optic nerve damage can occur even with normal pressure.

Pigmentary glaucoma - Pigmentary glaucoma, is a specific type of glaucoma that can develop in young to middle-aged adults, and is associated with a dispersion of pigment granules within the eye. The pigment granules appear to arise from the back of the iris. When the granules accumulate on and in the trabecular meshwork, they can interfere with the outflow of aqueous and cause an abnormal rise in pressure of the inside of the eye. Physical activities, such as jogging, sometimes stir up the pigment granules, depositing them on the trabecular meshwork and causing intermittent pressure elevations. This type of glaucoma can usually be easily diagnosed by your ophthalmologist Dr. Clint Long.

Because chronic forms of glaucoma can destroy vision before any signs or symptoms are apparent, Dr. Long wants you to be aware of some additional factors that can possibly place you at risk for developing glaucoma.

Elevated internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure)which goes undected. If your intraocular pressure is higher than normal, you're at increased risk of developing glaucoma, though not everyone with elevated intraocular pressure develops the disease. It's always best to get it checked out to be sure.

Age can be a factor if diabetes is an issue, or high blood pressure and even certain family traits. Everyone older than 60 is at increased risk of glaucoma. For certain population groups such as African-Americans, however, the risk is much higher and occurs at a younger age than that of the average population. If you're African-American, ask your doctor when you should start having regular comprehensive eye exams. Ask about our regular periodic exams here at the Long Vision Center.

Ethnic background. African-Americans are five times more likely to get glaucoma than are Caucasians, and they're much more likely to experience permanent blindness as a result. Mexican-Americans and Asian-Americans also face an increased risk. That is a high incidence and can be discussed at length after your exam about how often you need to plan to have testing completed.

Family history of glaucoma. If you have a family history of glaucoma, you may have a much greater risk of developing some forms of Glaucoma. Glaucoma may have a genetic link, meaning there's a defect in one or more genes that may cause certain individuals to be unusually susceptible to the disease. A form of juvenile open-angle glaucoma has been clearly linked to genetic abnormalities. To be sure, these types of issues can be discussed in more detail at the time of your post consultation.

Medical conditions. There may be certain medical conditions like Diabetes and hypothyroidism which have been known to increase your risk of developing glaucoma. If you have either, take the time to call the Long Vision Center and set up an appointment to discuss your concerns.

Other eye conditions. Severe eye injuries can also result in increased eye pressure for short and long periods of time due to swelling in the case of an impact injury or concussion. Injury can also dislocate the lens, which results in the actual closing of the drainage angle. Other risk factors include retinal detachment, eye tumors and eye inflammations, such as chronic uveitis and iritis. In addition, there can be certain types of eye surgery also may trigger secondary glaucoma; and these are rather limited but would need to be discussed with each person effected.

Nearsightedness. Now this is a well known condition and is treated with glasses; however what happens to the eye in being nearsighted, is what is important and by it's nature means that objects in the distance look fuzzy without glasses or contacts. Having this is what might increases the risk of developing glaucoma.

Prolonged corticosteroid use. If you have been prescribed these medications for other illness, you need to be educated and get with Dr. Long about long term usage. Using corticosteroids for prolonged periods of time, is known to put you at risk of getting secondary glaucoma. This is especially true if you use corticosteroids eyedrops. Specifics about these types of conditions really need follow up as well, and periodic testing after usage is complete for even temporary short term use can't hurt for your own peace of mind.

If you or a loved one have symptoms that give you pause for concern, call us here at Long Vision Center today and schedule an appointment with Dr. Clint Long. Having peace of mind is something we believe is important for your healthy vision. Call us today at (903) 892-2020. Prevention is the best way to dispel Glaucoma.

Thanks to the Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Ophthalmology for the research and information contained in this article.

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