Conditions that damage the optic nerve are grouped together under the name glaucoma. Often, the problem originates from abnormal high pressure in your eye. The optic nerve deteriorates over time, and with that deterioration creates blind spots.
The damage to the optic nerve usually results from the buildup of fluid within the eye. Normally, this fluid — called aqueous humor — drains at the point where the iris and cornea meet. It can be caused by an overproduction of fluid, or fluid drainage is blocked.
In either case, the excess aqueous humor builds up and increases pressure within the eye. It’s not fully understood how this increased pressure causes nerve damage, and in many cases, glaucoma runs in families, so there is a genetic connection underlying some types of the condition.
The most common type occurs when the drain path for aqueous humor remains open, but the tissue through which this liquid passes becomes partially blocked, leading to a slow buildup of eye pressure over time. Without regular eye exams, vision could be lost before there’s any indication of a problem.
This is also a result of the blockage of the drainage path. This condition may come on slowly, as with open-angle glaucoma, or it may occur suddenly, such as after a sudden dilation of your pupil. Acute closed-angle glaucoma is an urgent condition, as permanent damage may occur quickly.
This can cause optic nerve damage even though the pressure in the eye falls into the normal range. The reasons why normal-tension glaucoma occurs isn’t known, though limited blood flow or sensitive optic nerves are suspected culprits.
In the early stages, particularly with open-angle glaucoma, no symptoms are present until after the damage has occurred. This is the primary reason regular screening for glaucoma is important, particularly if you’re over 40.
Open-angle glaucoma produces tunnel vision in its advanced stages, and may show patchy blind spots prior to that point, often in both eyes and affecting central or peripheral vision.
Acute closed-angle glaucoma typically causes eye pain accompanied by a severe headache. You may see halos around light sources as well as generally blurred vision, and you may experience red eyes and nausea. Contact Decatur Eye Center immediately if you’re having these symptoms.
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