According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2.3 million Americans are affected by glaucoma in the U.S., and an additional two million don't know they have the disease.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S. for those over 40, but this disease can develop at earlier ages as well. Fluid pressure inside the eye, called intraocular pressure, can damage the eye nerve, leading to vision loss and even blindness. Symptoms may include bulging eyes, excessive tearing, abnormal sensitivity to light or no symptoms at all in the early stages of this disease.
In general, patients with open-angle glaucoma and chronic angle-closure glaucoma have no symptoms early in the course of the disease. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of adult glaucoma. Major risk factors include diabetes, family history and nearsightedness. Those of African-American descent are at a higher risk of contracting it as well.
However, symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma are rare. Usually, eye pressure rises quickly, causing severe eye pain, headache, nausea, vomiting and visual blurring, according to MedicineNet.com.
Glaucoma that develops before the age of 40 is called early-onset glaucoma. The risk of early-onset glaucoma depends mainly on heredity. If glaucoma appears before the age of five it's called primary congenital glaucoma. Primary congenital glaucoma occurs more often in boys than in girls, with boys accounting for approximately 65 percent of cases, according to emedicinehealth.com.
Nerve damage and visual loss from glaucoma usually cannot be reversed, but the disease can be controlled. The purpose of glaucoma treatment is to monitor and lower eye pressure. Regular eye exams, use of eyedrops, medication or surgery are all appropriate glaucoma treatments.
According glaucoma.org, surgery is either performed with a laser or with a cut made in the eye to reduce the intraocular pressure. The doctor will recommend the most appropriate type of surgery depending on the severity of glaucoma and the general health of the eye. Surgery can help lower pressure when medication is not sufficient.
The FDA has approved an at-home glaucoma test that can be taken in the comfort of your home on your computer. According to ehow.com, these at-home tests boast 90-percent accuracy in finding symptoms of glaucoma in clinical trials. If early signs of glaucoma are determined, as recognized by the test, it's important to seek an ophthalmologist to determine appropriate treatment options.