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Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (cont.)

What are the symptoms of primary open-angle glaucoma?

Patient Comments

In the early stages of primary open-angle glaucoma, there are no symptoms. Because of the silent nature of primary open-angle glaucoma, people do not usually have any visual complaints until late in the course of the disease (see When to Seek Medical Care). By the time you would notice vision loss, significant amounts of optic nerve damage and vision loss have already occurred. The optic nerve damage and vision loss are permanent.

Some people’s first sign of disease from elevated intraocular pressure can be sudden vision loss due to the vein in the central part of the retina becoming blocked, called a central retinal vein occlusion. Elevated intraocular pressure is the second most common risk factor for a central retinal vein occlusion after high blood pressure (hypertension). This central retinal vein occlusion can cause vision loss separately from primary open-angle glaucoma.

Risk factors identified with primary open-angle glaucoma include the following:

  • History of elevated intraocular pressure
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Race (People of African American descent are at an increased risk.)
  • Age older than 40 years (The risk of glaucoma increases with age.)
  • Nearsightedness (myopia)

Of these risk factors, elevated intraocular pressure is the main risk factor for glaucoma that must be immediately and continuously treated. For this reason, regular eye examinations with an ophthalmologist are very important to rule out any damage to the optic nerve due to high pressure.

When should I seek medical care for primary open-angle glaucoma?

Regular eye examinations with an ophthalmologist are important to screen for primary open-angle glaucoma. In particular, regular eye examinations are critical for people who are at high risk for glaucoma, such as African Americans and elderly individuals.

  • For people without any symptoms and who are aged 40 years and younger, screenings should be performed at least every 3-5 years.
  • Screenings should be conducted more often if the person is African American or older than 40 years.
  • For people with multiple risk factors for glaucoma, evaluation/monitoring should be performed on an even more frequent basis.

Your initial visit to the ophthalmologist is extremely important in the evaluation for primary open-angle glaucoma or other ocular diseases that could be causing elevated intraocular pressure (called secondary glaucoma).

During this visit, the ophthalmologist may ask you about the following:

  • Past ocular history
  • Past surgeries or illnesses
  • Current medications (Some medications may indirectly cause changes in intraocular pressure.)
  • Strong risk factors for optic nerve damage due to glaucoma
    • History of elevated intraocular pressure
    • Advanced age, particularly people who are older than 40 years
    • African American descent
    • Family history of glaucoma
    • Nearsightedness (myopia)
  • Possible risk factors for optic nerve damage due to glaucoma
  • Other possible risk factors
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/21/2016
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