How to Prevent Vision Loss from Glaucoma
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, affecting over 3 million people in the United States alone. It is often called the silent thief of sight because it robs people of vision slowly and without early symptoms. However, regular eye exams can lead to early diagnosis and help prevent vision loss.
The only way to diagnose glaucoma is by having a comprehensive dilated eye exam that can detect the disease in its early stages, allowing people to get treatments that can slow or prevent vision loss. Treatments for glaucoma include prescription eye drops, laser treatment, and surgery. There are new medications approved in 2020 that can help with certain forms of glaucoma.
Dr. Laura Sperazza, Director of Low Vision Services at Lighthouse Guild says, “It’s important to know that while glaucoma cannot be prevented or cured, it is treatable. Glaucoma does not have to lead to blindness. Early intervention can protect vision.”
As people get older, they often experience difficulties with their vision and may dismiss them as just an aspect of aging. However, issues with reading, driving at night, bright lights/glare, peripheral vision, and walking due to the inability to see curbs and steps should not be ignored. Only an eye care professional can determine if these symptoms are related to glaucoma or other eye conditions and begin treatments to protect vision. Anyone who experiences sudden vision changes or significant eye pain should see their doctor or go to an emergency room immediately.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve in the back of the eye. It can occur in one or both eyes. In its early stages, glaucoma does not usually have any symptoms. Many people do not even know they have it because their vision is changing so slowly. Difficulties with peripheral vision may be the first symptom they notice. Without treatment, glaucoma can eventually cause blindness.
People with a family history, older people, and people with poorly controlled high blood pressure and diabetes are at increased risk. They should speak with their eye care professional about their risk and ask how often they need to have their eyes checked.
For people who already have vision loss due to glaucoma, or other eye diseases, vision rehabilitation can improve quality of life and the ability to perform daily tasks. Technology also offers great solutions including screen readers, voice over for smartphone and apps that can identify money, objects and help with independent travel.