What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that cause damage to your eye’s optic nerve, the nerve responsible for sending images to your brain. When allowed to progress unchecked, glaucoma leads to irreversible loss of vision.
- Is often linked to a build-up of pressure in the eye
- Tends to be hereditary
- Usually occurs later in life (but not always)
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma most often is caused when pressure builds inside the eyes. This can occur when the fluid inside the eye, which usually flows out of the eye through a mesh-like channel where the iris and cornea meet, gets blocked. The blockage can be caused by:
- Blocked blood vessels
- Inflammatory conditions
- Unidentified causes
Types of Glaucoma
There are two main types of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
Also called primary or chronic glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease and affects about three million Americans. In open-angle glaucoma, the drainage channels in the eye clog slowly, resulting in a gradual increase in eye pressure. Because of its slow onset, the symptoms and damage of open-angle glaucoma are not easily noticed in this lifelong condition.
Also called acute glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma is a less common form of the disease. It occurs when the drain space between your iris and cornea becomes too narrow and is characterized by rapid onset and noticeable symptoms.
Less common types of glaucoma include:
- Secondary glaucoma. This form of glaucoma is diagnosed when another medical condition (like cataracts or diabetes) increases the pressure in your eyes.
- Normal-tension glaucoma. This type of glaucoma happens when your optic nerve is damaged, but your eye pressure remains within normal range.
- Pigmentary glaucoma. This form of the disease occurs when pigment from your iris clogs the drainage channels in your eye.
- Hereditary glaucoma. This type of the disease can be present at birth or develop during the first years of life.
How Does Glaucoma Affect Eyesight?
Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be recovered, but if the disease is diagnosed early, glaucoma with blindness can be slowed or prevented. Glaucoma affects vision in a variety of ways. Many individuals with glaucoma report:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Needing more light to see well
- Blurred or cloudy vision
- Blind spots
- Difficulty differentiating boundaries and color
- Tunnel vision
Common Glaucoma Symptoms
Open-angle glaucoma (the most common type) is sometimes referred to as “the sneak thief of vision” because most people don’t have symptoms. Even when they do, they generally experience an irreversible loss of vision because their symptoms occur late in the disease.
In contrast, symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma strike fast and are often obvious:
- Seeing halos
- Eye redness
- Eye pain
In open-angle, angle-closure, and other less common types of glaucoma, regular eye, and glaucoma tests are the best way of catching the disease early enough to limit or prevent visual impairment.
Risk Factors For Glaucoma
Although Regular eye care is recommended for all, those who are more likely to get glaucoma are considered “glaucoma suspects” and should be sure to be tested regularly for glaucoma. These risk factors include:
- Poor vision
- African America, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Hispanic. Inuit, or Scandinavian descent
- Taking certain medications
- An eye injury
- Thin corneas
- High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or sickle cell anemia
Glaucoma Diagnosis and Treatment
Glaucoma tests are quick and painless. Your eye doctor will test your vision, dilate your pupils, and look for signs of glaucoma. A test called tonometry is used to check eye pressure. Sometimes they’ll do a visual field test to check your peripheral vision and take photographs to use as a baseline for comparison at your next visit.
Once glaucoma causes vision loss, it cannot be returned. However, many treatments can halt or slow the progress of the disease. Most people with glaucoma who see their ophthalmologist regularly, have regular eye exams, and follow their treatment plans can keep the disease under control. These treatment plans include:
- Prescription eye drops. Lowering the pressure in your eye using drops can help you keep your remaining sight.
- Oral medication. Some doctors may prescribe drugs that improve eye drainage or slow the creatin of fluid in your eyes.
- In some cases, it’s possible to increase the flow of fluid from your eyes or stop fluid blockage surgically.
Living With Visual Impairment from Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a lifelong, progressive visual disease that requires regular follow-up with your eye doctor. However, although a diagnosis of glaucoma can be discouraging, it doesn’t mean you are powerless. There are many ways you can take control of your disease and your health:
- Regular exercise. Exercise keeps blood flowing to your nerves. Be sure to consult your doctor for activities that won’t increase eye pressure.
- Live Healthy. Getting the nutrition your body needs, limiting caffeine, and not smoking can help keep your vision at its best.
- Get regular eye exams. Protect your remaining vision by seeing your eye doctor as recommended.
- Take medicine as directed. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s essential to take your medicine to prevent more vision loss.
- Protect your eyes. Protect your eyes from injury by wearing protective eyewear when playing sports or working on home projects. If you wear contact lenses or makeup, take care to use brands that don’t irritate your eyes.
- Visually Impaired Advancement. VIA has been helping the visually impaired adjust to vision loss and maximize their enjoyment of life for over 100 years. Contact VIA to see how we can help you overcome vision loss and provide skills that restore confidence and independence.
Glaucoma Accessibility Tips From The Vision Loss Rehabilitation Experts Of Western New York
Experiencing vision loss can be devastating, but there is hope—and help—after visual impairment from glaucoma or another cause. VIA is committed to helping visually impaired individuals live their lives to the fullest by offering vision loss rehabilitation, tools, education, job training, and support for people of all ages.
A glaucoma diagnosis can be especially devastating for those who work. However, employers have a responsibility to ensure equal employment opportunities and workplace accessibility for the visually impaired. Many of the techniques and devices used in workplaces can also be used in everyday life to make living with visual impairment easier. Assistive technology can help you do many of the activities you enjoy. This technology includes:
- Screen-reading software
- Digital recorders
- Magnification devices
- Scanning devices
- Braille embossers
- Refreshable braille displays
VIA can help you master the use of assistive technology as well as offer other services to encourage and maintain your independence. We believe that losing visual acuity doesn’t change who you are or what you want to achieve in your life. That’s why we continually research new ways to help visually impaired individuals live their lives exactly as they wish.
Vision Rehabilitation: VIA Helps Those With Glaucoma Live Fully And Work Independently
Via provides comprehensive services for those of any age. We want to help you enjoy living and working on your terms, maximizing your abilities through vision rehabilitation. Our professional services can help restore function in your life after visual impairment through:
- Vision rehabilitation therapy. Learn to master daily tasks using adaptive techniques and tools that restore your confidence and independence.
- Orientation and mobility. Regain the ability to know where you are and how to get where you want to go using tools and technology for the visually impaired.
- Social casework services. Adjust to vision loss with the help of community resources, counseling, recreational opportunities, and other experiences designed to meet your physical, emotional, and social needs.
Contact a member of VIA’s Vision Rehab Services to learn more about how we can help you maximize your life today.
What Does VIA’s Low Vision Clinic Do?
At VIA’s Low Vision Clinic, our certified low vision therapist will perform a thorough evaluation of your vision, talk with you about your goals, and determine which of our visual rehabilitation therapies will help you achieve those goals. Life changes when you lose part of the sight you’ve depended on for so many years. But the things you enjoy and want to accomplish don’t change. Via can help you maximize safety, independence, and enjoyment following vision loss by helping you:
- Read print
- Use a computer
- Watch TV
- Recognize faces
- And more
Advancing the lives of the visually impaired is our calling. If you’re experiencing vision loss or trouble with your eyes, get in touch with your physician or ophthalmologist for consultation and treatment. After consulting your doctor, our certified low vision therapist will be able to make additional recommendations to optimize your life activities.
VIA Can Help
If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma or another eye disease and would like help adjusting to your changing abilities, VIA can help. We’re here to help with every step of your vision journey—providing tools, education, rehabilitation, job training, job placement, and support—that can help you live your life to the fullest. Contact VIA today.