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Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in people older than age 60, according to the Mayo Clinic. It’s a group of eye conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve, which is vital to your vision. The signs of glaucoma will differ, depending on the type. In some instances, there may be no signs at all, which is why glaucoma is often referred to as the “silent thief of sight.”

What are the types of glaucoma?

There are three main types of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, and normal tension glaucoma.

Open-angle Glaucoma

In the early stages, there are no obvious signs of open-angle glaucoma. As the disease progresses, you might start to notice blind spots in your side vision.

Angle-closure Glaucoma

There are typically no signs of angle-closure glaucoma until an “attack.” 

Leading up to an attack, you may experience:

  • Eye or forehead pain
  • Red eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Normal Tension Glaucoma

Higher than normal eye pressure is often an indication that someone may eventually develop glaucoma.

However, in some instances, a patient may have “normal” eye pressure, but still show signs of glaucoma. This is called “normal tension glaucoma” and it can cause blind spots in your field of vision and optic nerve damage.

Who is at risk of developing it?

Some forms of glaucoma can destroy vision before any clear signs of the disease appear. As a result, it’s important to know the risk factors and get regularly checked by an ophthalmologist if you’re at risk of developing it.

Some of the risk factors include:

  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Being older than age 60
  • High internal eye pressure
  • Extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness
  • Certain medical conditions (such as diabetes), eye injuries, or certain types of eye surgery

How can I prevent glaucoma?

Genetics play a key role in the development of the major forms of glaucoma, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. However, there are some things you can do to mitigate risk or catch it early, including:

  • Dilated eye exams with an ophthalmologist
  • Getting regularly screened if glaucoma runs in your family
  • Exercising regularly, which can help to reduce eye pressure
  • Prescribed eye drops, which can help to reduce eye pressure
  • Wear eye protection when playing sports, such as racquetball in an enclosed space, or when working with power tools

Unfortunately, vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible. That’s why it’s important to regularly schedule eye exams. Your ophthalmologist may conduct a number of tests that will aid in the early detection and treatment of glaucoma, which can help to prevent further vision loss.