Glaucoma is an eye condition which is characterized by elevated fluid pressure within the eyes. If this is left untreated the sufferer may become blind and lose his or her sense of vision. This disease often affects both eyes and is one of the leading causes of blindness around the world. Recent reports say that the level of estrogen during menopause has something to do with the risk for acquiring glaucoma.
For us to understand what glaucoma is all about, let us first review the anatomy of the eye. In the front of the eye lies a small space called the anterior chamber. The anterior chamber serves as a space where clear liquid flows in and out to bathe and nourish the nearby tissues. However, in a person with glaucoma, there is a defect in the movement of clear fluid within the anterior chamber, so that either there is little or no drainage out of the eye. As a result, fluid builds up within the eye and pressure within the eye rises. This pressure within the eye needs to be reduced as soon as possible so that there would be no damage to the optic nerve and other parts of the eye. Eye damage caused by elevated pressures within the eye can lead to loss of vision.
There are two main types of glaucoma—open angle and closed angle. The term “angle” refers to the trabecular meshwork where the fluid in the eye flows in between the iris and the cornea. This angle is lined up by trabeculocytes. Fluid drains into the Schlemm’s canal which further flows into the bloodstream. Primary open angle glaucoma is a type of glaucoma that progresses slowly, so that the sufferer may not feel any symptoms and there is gradual loss of vision that may go unnoticed. Usually, people with primary open angle glaucoma do not seek any help until there is permanent damage already.
On the other hand, closed angle glaucoma or acute angle closure glaucoma is a type of glaucoma with sudden onset of symptoms so that the patient can experience pain and rapid vision loss. This makes the sufferer seek medical help immediately so that there is prompt treatment to stop permanent damage from occurring. There are also other two types of glaucoma: low-tension glaucoma and pigmentary glaucoma. Low-tension glaucoma occurs when there is no change in pressure yet there is still optic nerve damage. Experts think that low-tension glaucoma is a result of oversensitivity of the optic nerve or atherosclerosis of the blood vessel supplying the optic nerve.
Another type of glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, develops during early adulthood or middle age. In this type of glaucoma, there are pigment granules that arise from the back of the iris which are dispersed within the eye. Once there is the buildup of granules within the trabecular meshwork, the flow of fluids within the eye is affected, further leading to a rise in blood pressure. There are some factors which affect the trabecular meshwork, such as running and other sports.
The signs and symptoms of glaucoma include loss of peripheral vision affecting both eyes, tunnel vision, severe eye pain, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, halo-like lights in the visual fields, and other vision problems. Risks factors for glaucoma include old age, ethnic background, some illnesses, injuries, eye surgery, myopia, and the use of corticosteroids.
Glaucoma Risk and Menopause
Several recent studies confirm the positive correlation between the menopause and glaucoma risk since the low estrogen levels is considered as major contributor to poor vision in women as they age. Here’s a short summary and what it means to you.
* The optic nerve, the large nerve in the back of your eye that sends vision to your brain, shrinks with age – about 0.2% / year. Low estrogen contributes to this shrinkage.
* The pressure inside the eye-called the intraocular pressure – also increases with age. That leads to the condition glaucoma. Women in menopause have substantially higher intraocular pressure than before the menopausal period.
* Scientists confirm that women are much more likely than men to have glaucoma and cases of glaucoma are rising rapidly. This sex-related statistical difference is attributed to the low estrogen levels. The experiments with animals provide the actual proof that giving them estrogen decreases the risk of the glaucoma development.
Menopause before age 45 increases the rate of glaucoma 2.6 times. So, how does this may affect you? Do you have any of the following conditions?
* Menopause before age 45
* Cancer with require treatment blocking estrogen.
* Surgery to remove your ovaries before age 45.
If you have any of the following situations or conditions, or just in natural menopause, be sure and have your eyes checked at least annually. Have them checked for vision and intraocular pressure.
A new study from the Netherlands Ophthalmic Research Institute in Amsterdam have supplied additional evidence that women who experience early menopause are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma later in life. The study tracked 3,000 women, and those who went through natural menopause before the age of 45 were confirmed more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma than women who went through menopause at age 50 or older.
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