Understanding glaucoma, the “Sneak Thief of Sight”
January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for Americans age 60 and over.
Early detection and treatment are crucial. Comprehensive dilated eye exams can help detect glaucoma in its early stages, possibly preventing it from causing further harm and loss of vision.
Several types of glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve that carries images of what your eyes see to your brain. Left untreated, it can result in loss of peripheral (or side) vision, resulting in what is sometimes called ‘tunnel vision’. It is mostly caused when fluid pressure slowly builds up in front of your eye.
Open-Angle Glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, is called the “sneak thief of sight” because there are usually no warning signs. Of the estimated three million Americans who have glaucoma, only about half of them have been diagnosed. This means approximately 1.5 million Americans don’t know they have glaucoma.
Closed-Angle Glaucoma can appear unexpectedly, with eye pressure rising quickly. The result might include blurred vision, severe eye pain or seeing halos around lights. If this happens, you should seek eye and/or medical care right away.
Secondary Glaucoma generally occurs because of other health conditions like long-term steroid therapy, a tumor, an eye injury or diabetes.
Did you know?
- Increased eye pressure alone doesn’t mean you’ll develop glaucoma, but it is a risk factor. The level of pressure that causes damage to the optic nerve can vary from person to person.
- Anyone can develop glaucoma, but you are at greater risk if you’re age 40 and older, or you’re of African, Hispanic or Asian heritage. Other at-risk conditions include diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of glaucoma.
- If you find out you have glaucoma, your eye doctor will try to stop further damage to your eyes and vision. The doctor may prescribe medicated eye drops, conventional or laser surgery, or a combination of both. Be sure to use the eye drops as prescribed and get a dilated eye exam every three to six months.