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Our eyes contain a clear fluid called aqueous humor, which is continually produced by the eye to bathe and nourish the structures inside it. This fluid normally drains out of the eye through a series of drainage canals in a fine meshwork located around the edge of the iris (the colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil). This fluid system should not be confused with tears, which are produced outside of the eye and are not related to glaucoma. In people with glaucoma, the fluid fails to drain, as it should, increasing the pressure inside the eye.
It might help to understand it if you think of a spring-fed lake with a stream running out at one end. The spring continually pumps water into the lake, and it drains through the stream, keeping the lake level balanced. If, for some reason, the stream becomes blocked or its opening narrows to the point that water can no longer run out freely, the water in the lake will rise. That is similar to what happens in glaucoma.
Fluid continues to be produced by the eye but is unable to flow freely out. As a result, the restricted fluid flow can cause a buildup of fluid and an increase in the pressure inside the eye called increased Intraocular pressure (IOP). In time, this increased pressure may damage the optic nerve at the back of the eye, which can cause loss of vision. If the nerve and in some cases, eventually lead to total blindness. Doctors have had significant success in treating and controlling glaucoma through the consistent use of medicine to lower the pressure in the eye.
Although there are other forms of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma is by far the most common form however, it is believed to develop because the eye’s drainage canals gradually, over time, become partially clogged or obstructed. The entrance to the canal appears open (hence the name), but further downstream, something is blocking the free flow of the fluid out of the eye. People with this type of glaucoma usually have no symptoms at first and seldom notice any change in their vision. Doctors discover it during an eye exam when they measure the pressure of the eye and examine the optic nerve in the back of the eye with a light scope. Generally, this type of glaucoma progresses very slowly and is usually treated with medicine. It is important to note, however, that control of your condition is greatly dependent on your faithfully following your treatment instructions. If not treated, the risk of high Intraocular pressure causing progressive damage to the optic nerve increases. This can gradually reduce your field of vision - starting with loss of peripheral, or side, vision. Ultimately, this loss of vision can extend to larger areas of vision and may lead to total blindness. The status of your condition will be monitored by color photography of the optic nerve head, visual field analysis and retinal tomography.
What Factors Lead to Glaucoma? People of all ages can get glaucoma, but it is more commonly diagnosed in those who are over 55 years old, highly nearsighted, or diabetic. The tendency to develop glaucoma may be inherited. Also, if you are of African ancestry, your chance of having glaucoma is significantly greater. Having multiple risk factors increases your chance of developing glaucoma. However, people without these risk factors can still get glaucoma. Doctors and researchers do not know what causes this condition; they do know, however, that it is not caused by reading too much or in poor light, improper nutrition, or wearing contact lenses.
How Is It Treated? Open-angle glaucoma is treated effectively with medicine, usually in the form of eye drops. Some eye drops reduce pressure in the eye by making the eye produce less fluid. Less fluid flowing into the eye reduces the pressure. Other eye drops lower pressure by improving the drainage of fluid through the blocked drainage canals. Some patients may eventually need surgery if medicine does not control their glaucoma.
* Please consult your eye doctor for further details. This information is presented for informational purposes and is not designed to substitute for the advice of your eye doctor.
Dr. Joseph Audia 2403 West Main St. Salem, WV 26426 304-782-1005 Dr. Joseph Audia 345 Floral Drive Harrisville, WV 26362 304-643-2117
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