What Happens When Glaucoma Goes Untreated?

Glaucoma is a relatively common series of eye conditions that can lead to blindness. Currently, about three million Americans have the condition. It is the second most prevalent cause of blindness globally, after cataracts. The condition usually presents symptoms in much later stages, making it more dangerous. It is sometimes referred to as the sneaky sight thief because of this. 

Because it develops silently, you can only detect the condition early through regular eye exams. During your eye exams, the eye doctor will run tests to help them check for signs of the condition. Early detection is vital to preserving your vision, but you will need treatment for the rest of your life.


What Is Glaucoma?


Glaucoma is an umbrella term that eye doctors use to describe a group or series of eye disorders. The disorders are characterized by their negative impact on the health of the optic nerve. They are the most common optic nerve damage conditions leading to blindness. 

These conditions usually develop when ocular fluid builds up in the anterior part of the eye. The increasing volume leads to an increase in pressure in the eye. The pressure then starts to impact other structures in the eye, like the optic nerve. Pressure in the eye is normal, but excessive pressure is dangerous. 


What Causes Glaucoma?


Sometimes, you can develop glaucoma even without any primary cause. However, many factors can lead to its development, the most important of which is eye pressure. The liquid in the eye, known as aqueous humor, helps nourish the different structures in the eye. It flows through your eye to the pupil and out through drainage canals. 

The drainage canal through which this fluid flows out is between the cornea and the iris. If a resistance forms in the drainage canals, it blocks the outflow of the liquid. The liquid then starts to collect in the eye, building pressure. Enough pressure leads to glaucoma and optic nerve damage. 


What Are the Symptoms?


As mentioned, glaucoma is a silent sight thief because it often shows no symptoms. However, some forms of glaucoma do manifest early symptoms. Closed angle, the second most common form of the condition, has symptoms that show up suddenly. However, you must see a doctor immediately because it damages your sight irreversibly much faster.

Some common symptoms of most glaucoma forms are:

  • Eye pain

  • Rainbow halos around lights

  • Vomiting and nausea

  • Headaches

  • Blurred or low vision

  • Blind spots or tunnel vision

  • Red eyes


Risk Factors for Glaucoma

  • Hypertension

  • Myopia

  • Hyperopia

  • Eye injury or surgery

  • Corticosteroid use

  • Family history of glaucoma


How Do Eye Doctors Diagnose Glaucoma?


To detect glaucoma, your eye doctor may perform a dilated eye exam, or OCT, to check your optic nerve health. They may also perform a gonioscopy to help them examine the meeting point of the corneal and iris angle. They may also do an ocular pressure, corneal thickness, or slit-lamp test for other visual aspects that glaucoma may impact.

For more on what happens when glaucoma goes untreated, visit Ocean Park Optometry at our office in Santa Monica, California. Call (310) 452-1039 to book an appointment today.

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