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Glaucoma

Glaucoma: Frequently Asked Questions

Last updated on:
27/03/2012

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to glaucoma.

Q: Is glaucoma related to stress?

A: At this point there is no definite evidence linking the two. But some research seems to indicate that stress can either aggravate the problem or make a person more likely to develop it, possibly by causing either congestion or spasms among the blood vessels. None of this, however, has been conclusively proved. In any case, stress can damage the entire immune system and lead to other physical and emotional problems. So while reducing stress level might not do anything for glaucoma, it can do a lot for the rest of the body.

Q: Is glaucoma linked to smoking?

A: There is no direct link to smoking, but smoking is hazardous to your health and can lead to other diseases and conditions. Smoke can also irritate the eyes.

Q: Is it true that marijuana and alcohol can help glaucoma?

A: Some research has shown that using marijuana and drinking alcohol will lower eye pressure by reducing the amount of aqueous humor the eyes produce. But neither one lowers it as much as conventional medications. More importantly, marijuana and alcohol use can also lead to other problems.

Q: Are migraines related to glaucoma?

A: Migraine headaches, like glaucoma, can lead to a loss in peripheral vision. But with migraines, the loss is usually temporary. Although doctors aren't sure why this happens, they think it's because migraines can reduce the amount of blood that flows into the brain, which affects the optic nerves. The lost peripheral vision normally returns after the migraine is over.

Q: Is there a "normal" eye pressure?

A: No, but there is an average pressure. For adults that number is around 16, but there are "normal" eyes with pressure as low as 10 and as high as 23. A better question to ask is, "Is my eye pressure at a safe level?" Only your doctor can answer that.

Q: Will reading or using my eyes make my glaucoma worse?

A: No. Reading or using your eyes does not wear them out.

Q: Is glaucoma hereditary?

A: It can be. It does run in some families, although it does not necessarily affect everyone in the family. It has also been known to skip a generation or two.

Q: What is the difference between glaucoma and cataract?

A: A cataract develops when the lens of the eye grows thicker, losing its transparency by becoming cloudy and opaque. Cataracts do not affect the optic nerve, but glaucoma does. Since both tend to happen to people once they get older, it is common for a person to have both.

Q: Does having diabetes put someone at greater risk for glaucoma?

A: Being diabetic leaves a person susceptible to a number of medical problems, and some of them affect the eye. People with diabetes can develop neovascular glaucoma, when abnormal blood vessels grow inside the eye.

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.