A common eye disorder for older adults is glaucoma, caused elevated fluid pressure inside the eye that can damage the optic nerve and lead to loss of vision.
The optic nerve is a bundle of about one million nerve fibers that sends visual signals from the eye to the brain.
The most common form of the condition is called open-angle glaucoma, which develops slowly and usually has no symptoms at the start.
Over time, peripheral vision is affected. If not treated, glaucoma can reduce vision and eventually cause blindness.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma — also called narrow-angle glaucoma — is caused by a rapid increase in eye pressure.
This form, which is less common, can cause eye pain and redness, as well as visual halos or colored rings, blurred vision, and nausea.
Anyone experiencing such symptoms should see an eye doctor immediately to avoid vision loss — which can come quickly.
Open-angle glaucoma may result from inefficient eye drainage, which leads to increased eye fluid and pressure. Poor blood flow to the optic nerve may also contribute.
As people age, the eyes’ lenses enlarge, which narrows the angle where drainage normally occurs, increasing fluid buildup and eye pressure.
Risk factors for glaucoma include age, being African-American or Hispanic, medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, or having a family history of the disease.
Severe eye trauma or other eye problems including a detached retina, eye tumor, or inflammation can also lead to glaucoma.
People who use corticosteroid medications for prolonged periods are also at greater risk.
If a doctor determines that there has been a decline in vision, he or she can measure the pressure inside the eye and check the patient’s peripheral and central vision to diagnose glaucoma.
Treatment aims to reduce pressure in the eye. Eye drops are initially prescribed, but some cases require laser treatment or other surgery.
Even though glaucoma cannot be cured, early diagnosis and continuing treatment can preserve eyesight.
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