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The Link Between Smoking and Glaucoma

Even though it’s well known that smoking cigarettes has serious consequences for our general health, it hasn’t stopped more than 1 billion people worldwide from adopting this addictive habit.

While most people are aware that smoking can cause cancer and pulmonary disease, far fewer realize that smoking can harm our eyes as well, as smoking regularly can increase the risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases, such as glaucoma.

But first, what is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases caused by a buildup of pressure within the eye. The longer the pressure builds, the more damage it causes, especially to the optic nerve. Since images are relayed from the eye to the brain along optic nerve impulses, glaucoma often results in permanent vision loss and even blindness.

Smoking-Related Glaucoma Symptoms

A 2018 retrospective study found that the more cigarette packs a person smoked per day, the greater their odds of developing glaucoma.

The study found that the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) is significantly affected by smoking. The RNFL collects visual data from the eye’s retinal nerves, which direct it to the optic nerve, taking the visual signals to the brain. Smokers in the study had a significantly thinner RNFL than non-smokers. A thinning RNFL is a symptom associated with glaucoma as well as some other eye conditions.

Other Eye Conditions Linked To Smoking

Besides glaucoma, smoking can put a person at risk for other serious eye conditions.

Smokers are twice as likely to develop cataracts, compared to non-smokers, a condition characterized by the clouding of the eye lens that causes blurred vision. Once cataracts develop, they get progressively worse and must be surgically removed to eliminate the cloudiness and restore clear vision.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is another eye condition that smokers are at a high risk of developing. Smokers are 3 times more likely to develop AMD, a condition that causes blind spots in the central vision. This means that no matter what you’re looking at, be it the TV or a grandchild’s face, you can’t see it clearly. AMD can at times lead to total blindness.

Other eye conditions that smokers are at a higher risk of developing include diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome.

Check Your Eye Health

One of the best actions you can take to improve your general health and your eye health is to quit smoking.

Schedule an eye exam with to make sure your eyes are healthy. If any eye problems are detected, we’ll recommend the best treatment options.

Our practice serves patients from Oswego, Naperville, Aurora, and Chicago, Illinois and surrounding communities.
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What Are The First Signs Of Glaucoma

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What Are The First Signs Of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease caused by increased pressure in the eye that damages the optic nerve. It is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness and vision loss.

The good news is that with early detection, this serious eye condition can be well managed—lowering your risk of serious vision loss.

About 3 million people in the U.S. have glaucoma, but only half of those are aware they even have it. That’s because 90% of people with the disease have open-angle glaucoma (OAG), which has no obvious symptoms until it causes irreversible damage. For this reason, glaucoma is often referred to as the ‘Silent Thief of Sight.’

In contrast, closed-angle glaucoma, which affects about 10% of glaucoma patients, is accompanied by very obvious symptoms.

What Are The First Signs and Symptoms Of Glaucoma?

Different types of glaucoma present in very different ways. Because in the majority of cases, no visible symptoms manifest early on, regular eye exams are crucial—even if you think your vision is fine.

Signs and symptoms of open-angle glaucoma (OAG)

Open-angle glaucoma occurs when the fluid inside the eye does not properly drain out of the eye. The increased volume of fluid inside the eye results in increased eye pressure, leading to permanent damage to the optic nerve.

This type of glaucoma develops gradually, painlessly, and without overt symptoms until the optic nerve has suffered severe damage—which is life-long and significant. This is the reason why over 50% of people with OAG suffer permanent vision loss, which could have been prevented had they undergone regular eye examinations.

Signs and symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma (ACG)

Acute angle-closure glaucoma, also called closed-angle glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma, occurs when the eye’s drainage channel is blocked by the iris, causing the eye pressure to increase very quickly. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is common in older adults, particularly those who are farsighted or have worsening cataracts.

The sudden spike in eye pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause permanent vision loss if not treated promptly.

If you or your loved one experience any of the following signs or symptoms, contact your eye doctor immediately.

  • Blurred vision that occurs suddenly
  • Pain in the eye and head
  • Sudden headache around the eyes or the forehead
  • Nausea and vomiting accompanied by severe eye pain
  • Seeing halos around lights, such as rainbow-colored circles around lights or unusual sensitivity to light
  • Vision loss, especially if it occurs suddenly
  • Redness in the eye, sometimes accompanied by pain
  • An eye that looks hazy, with a cloudy looking cornea
  • Tunnel vision, vision loss around the edges of your visual field

Diagnosing Glaucoma

The best way to catch glaucoma early on is to undergo regular comprehensive eye exams. The sooner glaucoma is diagnosed, the sooner one can begin treatment to stop or slow the disease’s progression.

During the eye exam, your eye doctor will dilate your pupils to examine the condition of your optic nerve and measure your intraocular pressure (IOP) to make sure your levels are in the normal range. If your pressure levels are too high, your eye doctor will assess whether you have this condition or not.

A visual field test will check your peripheral vision to determine if the optic nerve is functioning correctly.

Your eye doctor will most likely use the latest imaging technologies, such as a digital retinal image (DRI) or an OCT scan. The DRI is a digital photograph of the retina and optic nerve and the OCT scan analyzes the layers of the optic nerve and retina. Both of these technologies allow the eye doctor to discover the first signs of this eye disease.

Even though glaucoma cannot be prevented, early detection is the best way to protect your vision. If you suspect that you may have glaucoma or if you are due for an eye examination, contact to schedule an appointment today.

Our practice serves patients from Oswego, Naperville, Aurora, and Chicago, Illinois and surrounding communities.
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Glaucoma Causes and Risk Factors

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Glaucoma: Causes and Risk Factors

Glaucoma affects over 67 million people worldwide. It’s one of the primary causes of preventable vision loss and blindness among adults in the United States and Canada and is among the leading causes of blindness globally.

Types of Glaucoma

The most common type of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma (OAG), represents more than 90% of glaucoma cases in the United States and Canada. That’s more than 2.7 million people.

Closed-angle glaucoma (CAG) and normal-tension glaucoma (NTG) are much less common types, affecting close to half a million people in the USA and Canada. Though rare, these forms of the disease can cause sudden and permanent vision loss.

OAG has no early warning signs and can only be detected during a comprehensive eye exam. If left untreated, all types of glaucoma may cause irreparable damage to your optic nerve, ultimately leading to blindness.

What Causes Glaucoma?

Open-Angle Glaucoma (OAG)

Usually, the fluid inside your eye (aqueous humor) flows into the veins at the back of your eyes through a mesh-like channel. If that channel gets blocked, or the eye produces too much fluid, the volume of liquid inside the eye builds up. This increases the internal pressure in the eye (IOP), causing OAG glaucoma.

The normal range of IOP is 12 to 20 mmHG. Pressure higher than this can start to cause OAG and affect the health of the optic nerve.

With OAG, eye pressure slowly increases over several years before any optic nerve damage starts to affect your eyesight. This is why early detection is key for successful prevention.

Closed-Angle Glaucoma (CAG)

Closed-angle glaucoma is a condition where the pressure inside your eye builds up because fluid isn’t flowing out of your eye as it should. This happens when the outer edge of the iris bunches up over the drainage canal. This occurs when the pupil enlarges too much or too quickly.

In this type of glaucoma, the IOP rises very suddenly and can cause extreme eye pain and rapid vision loss.

Normal-Tension Glaucoma (NTG)

Also known as low-tension glaucoma or normal-pressure glaucoma, NTG results from damage to the optic nerve even when eye pressure is within the normal range. It isn’t known why the optic nerve is sometimes susceptible to damage from a normal amount of eye pressure.

Less common causes of glaucoma include a blunt or chemical injury to the eye, severe eye infection, blocked blood vessels inside the eye, and inflammatory conditions.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Symptoms can vary based on the severity of the condition and the type of glaucoma, and often become noticeable only after they have caused irreversible vision loss. For this reason, it’s vital to undergo regular comprehensive eye exams. An eye exam is the only way to detect glaucoma before it causes permanent vision loss.

Symptoms of glaucoma may include:

  • Elevated eye pressure
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye redness
  • Eye pain
  • Headaches
  • Blind spots in your eyes or vision loss
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seeing halos around lights

Glaucoma Risk Factors

Glaucoma mostly affects adults over 40, but young adults, children, and even infants can also suffer from this serious eye condition.

Age

People over 40 are at an increased risk of glaucoma, and the risk increases with each passing year. This condition is diagnosed in 2% of people over 40, but increases to more than 10% in those over 80 years of age.

Ethnicity

Hispanics and African-Americans are three to four times more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma than Caucasians. People of Asian descent are at a higher risk of closed-angle glaucoma.

Thin Corneas

People with thin corneas (less than 555um) have been found to be four to six times more likely to develop open-angle glaucoma than those with thicker corneas. The thinner the cornea, the higher the risk of developing glaucoma. Thinner corneas are also associated with increased severity of visual field loss and a more rapid progression of the disease.

Family History

If a parent or grandparent had open-angle glaucoma, you are more than 10 times more likely to develop the condition. First-degree relatives of glaucoma patients have a 22% lifetime risk of developing glaucoma themselves, compared to just 2% of the general population.

Medical History

Those with high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes have a much higher risk of developing glaucoma. Eye injury or eye trauma also raises the risk.

Extreme Nearsightedness or Farsightedness

People who are very nearsighted or farsighted have a greater chance of developing glaucoma than people with milder forms.

Although people at high risk of developing glaucoma should schedule regular eye exams, even those not deemed at risk can develop the disease. For this reason, it is recommended that starting at age 40, every person should schedule a comprehensive eye exam, even if their vision is clear and they have no signs of eye disease.

The sooner your eye doctor detects a problem, the sooner you can begin treatment to prevent or minimize damage to your vision. Contact to book your eye exam today!

Our practice serves patients from Oswego, Naperville, Aurora, and Chicago, Illinois and surrounding communities.
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