Most people consider glaucoma an eye disease that only affects adults 40 years of age and up. But statistics reveal that glaucoma can also strike young adults. The condition is progressive, which means that it can only become worse with time. In the majority of cases, you won't even know that you have glaucoma until you experience some type of vision loss. Learning more about glaucoma and the risk factors for the disease can help you get the treatment you need to manage it.
Glaucoma affects the optic nerve located in the back of each eye. Optic nerves play a critical role in how well you view and interpret things that you see each day and night. The nerves receive messages from light-sensitive organs called retinas and convey them to your brain, which puts everything together to form images, colors and shapes. When fluids leak or build up in the front areas of your eyes, they create pressure on the optic nerves. The pressure keeps you from seeing things out of different parts of your eyes.
Glaucoma comes in many forms, including open-angle and closed-angle. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type and typically develops when fluids build up in the front of your eyes. Because open-angle glaucoma can by asymptomatic in its initial stages, it isn't easy to diagnose without an optometrist's help.
Closed-angle eye pressure is not as common as open-angle glaucoma but can be very dangerous. Closed-angle glaucoma can cause numerous emergency symptoms once it advances, including vision disturbances, flashes of light and severe pain. Without emergency care right away, you can lose your vision from closed-angle glaucoma.
There are other types of glaucoma you should be aware of, including normal-tension, secondary and congenital. In addition, you should also be aware of your risk factors for the different types of glaucoma.
Who's at Risk for Glaucoma and How Do You Treat the Disease?
Any young and old adult can develop glaucoma, including people of African American and Asian descent. Glaucoma is more common in African Americans than Caucasians. People of Asian descent are more susceptible or at risk for closed-angle glaucoma.
Individuals who have family histories of glaucoma are also susceptible for the condition. For example, if your grandparent or parent has open-angle glaucoma, you may be at risk for the disease yourself. If you have a previous or current eye disease or injury to one or both eyes, you can be at risk for glaucoma. The disease or injury doesn't necessarily have to affect the optic nerves directly to cause glaucoma. The conditions can cause glaucoma if they interfere with your eyes' ability to drain or produce fluids.
If you fall into any of the risk factors above, it's essential that you speak to an optometrist, or eye doctor, right away. Although glaucoma diseases take their time to develop, they can cause blindness once they advance. You want to avoid this critical problem by having your eyes examined and treated as soon as possible.
An optometrist will most likely ask you about your risk factors during your exam. You want to be as candid about your health and family history as you can with the doctor. The more an optometrist knows about you, the more treatment options they can offer you.
You may also undergo an optic nerve test during your appointment. The test checks the pressure in your eyes to see if its too high or in normal ranges. If the pressure is too high, an eye doctor will take the appropriate steps to lower it. This may include giving you medications that lower eye pressure over time. It's also possible to undergo surgery to release the pressure around your optic nerve. However, the exact treatments needed for your situation may depend on the eye doctor you see for care, as well as your overall health.
If you'd like to learn more about glaucoma in young adults, talk to an optometrist today.