Open-angle glaucoma may be managed if you catch it early enough. Generally, those who are over 50 are more susceptible to open-angle glaucoma, and a cure does not exist. However, some medications, or even surgery, may slow the process down. This is the most common type of glaucoma you can get, and it’s usually in both eyes, though sometimes you may have it in just one eye.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Explained
Open-Angle Glaucoma vs Closed-Angle Glaucoma
When you have open-angle glaucoma, you may not even know it. It often comes on slowly and is painless, so you could have it for years without knowing it unless you have your eyes checked regularly. If it is not caught for years, you could suffer severe damage to your eyes, including blindness.
On the other hand, closed-angle glaucoma is usually acute and is caused by a rapid increase in pressure inside your eye. This pressure is referred to as intraocular pressure, and you may see it abbreviated as IOP. Closed-angle glaucoma is painful and it is an emergency. The angle between the iris and cornea is where you have “drains” that remove fluid from your eye. If these drains become suddenly blocked, the fluid cannot leave your eye and pressure builds up, causing pain.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Causes
Fluid is constantly being pumped into your eyes. As the new fluid comes in the old fluid has to have somewhere to go. The “angle,” which is where the cornea and the iris meets, contains a drain system. The system is akin to a strainer with tiny holes that go to drainpipes. In open-angle glaucoma, this angle stays open and the clog is further into the system. The clog causes the fluid to drain slower, which increases the pressure in your eyes.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Symptoms
What causes the clog isn’t always clear. Over time, the slow-draining fluid and the pressure it causes damages the optic nerve. The nerve sends information from your eyes to your brain. Open-angle glaucoma symptoms include blind spots, loss of peripheral vision, missing stairs, or even missing letters from words while you are reading.
Those Most Likely to Get Open-Angle Glaucoma
Those who are over 50 years old are more susceptible to glaucoma, especially if it is in your family history. And, if you are African American or Hispanic, you are more likely to suffer from glaucoma than if you are white.
Additionally, you are more susceptible to glaucoma if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, nearsightedness, or have a have a thin cornea.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Treatment
Before your doctor treats you for glaucoma, he or she must test for it. The test starts off with an eye health check. You’ll get a numbing drop simply because the tools touch your eyes. First, the doctor will check the pressure in your eyes, then look for an open angle. Finally, the doctor will measure the thickness of your cornea.
After measuring, the doctor may dilate your eyes, which makes your pupils open wide. With the pupils open wide, the doctor is able to see your optic nerve and can tell if it has any damage. Finally, the doctor will check your visual field.
If the doctor determines that you do have glaucoma, he or she will give you medications to slow the process down. There is no cure yet for glaucoma and once the optic nerve has been damaged, you won’t be able to repair it.
Glaucoma slows down by lowering the pressure in your eyes, usually with medication first, then laser therapy or surgery. Medications may include prostaglandins to help your eyes drain better or beta-blockers to slow the fluid production in your eyes. If the drops don’t work, you may have to take a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor in pill form.
Laser therapy opens the clogs in your eyes and is usually done in the doctor’s office. And, surgeries include inserting drainage tubes in your eyes or making a small hole in your eye to allow the fluid to drain out.
Watch this video to learn some alternative treatments for glaucoma:
Catch glaucoma early and have a better chance at slowing its progress by getting eye exams every four years once you turn 40 years old. Once you hit 65 years old, you should get eye exams every one to two years.
Do you have open-angle glaucoma? Share your stories in the comments section below!