Glaucoma: what are the symptoms?

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Glaucoma: what are the symptoms?

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a eye disease which affects about 800,000 people in France: if "only" 1% to 2% of adults over the age of 40 are concerned, the disease affects about 70% of seniors over 70 years.

Glaucoma is above all a question of intraocular pressure. Small explanation: inside the eye, a liquid is produced continuously: it is "the aqueous humor". This fluid is evacuated through a filter (the trabeculum), located between the iris and the cornea. When the evacuation is disturbed, the pressure inside the eyeball rises abnormally, and this can cause an alteration of the fibers of the optic nerve.

Now, the optic nerve (which starts from the retina, in the back of the eye) carries the information to the brain to allow us to see: its alteration causes a loss of vision ... to blindness. Specialists believe that glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in France after age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Glaucoma exists mainly in three forms:

  • The chronic open angle glaucoma is the most common since it accounts for 90% of cases. It is caused by the progressive closure of the trabeculum. Both eyes are reached at the same time; the alteration of vision is slow and painless.
  • The acute angle closure glaucoma is the most painful since it is linked to a sudden closure of the trabeculum. The decline in vision is rapid, the pain is intense, the patient has the feeling that his eye "will explode". It's a medical emergency!
  • The congenital glaucoma is a rare disease (it affects 1 birth in 27,800 births in Europe) that results from an abnormal development of the drainage structure of the aqueous humor during pregnancy.

Glaucoma: the symptoms of this eye disease

Glaucoma is unfortunately a disease that can remain asymptomatic for about ten years: in case of chronic open angle glaucoma, the impairment of vision is almost imperceptible and there is no pain.

Some glaucoma symptoms may nevertheless constitute "warning signals":

  • The vision is altered on the sides: on the far left and far right of the visual field, we see "blur" and dark,
  • It is increasingly difficult to follow a moving target of the gaze (a moving car, for example),
  • We sometimes have the impression of having a "fog" in front of our eyes,
  • We sometimes have the sensation of having a distorted view, as if we were looking in a glass tube,
  • In the elderly, glaucoma may change some lifestyle habits: you may notice a loss of interest in reading and / or television, an unusual way of looking in front of you (turning your head to the side ), an embarrassment in front of the light ...
  • In case of acute angle closure glaucoma, intense pain appears suddenly: the vision is quickly blurred, and we perceive "colored halos" around the bright lights. There may also be nausea and / or vomiting. It is necessary to call the help!

A screening "systematic and regular" (every 2 or 3 years) is recommended from the age of 40, especially among people at risk:

  • If there are already cases of glaucoma in the family (about 30% of glaucoma is hereditary),
  • High myopia or hyperopia
  • Diabetes, high blood pressure and / or sleep apnea,
  • Taking a corticosteroid treatment for a long time,

Latest info: black-skinned populations are more affected than white-skinned populations. Good to know !

sources: Insurance Maladie, Inserm, French Society of Glaucoma

Read also :

⋙ Glaucoma: a cup of tea a day to reduce the risks?

⋙ Yoga not recommended for people with glaucoma?

⋙ Elisabeth Quin: her fight against glaucoma

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