While January kicks off the New Year, we’d like to bring your attention to the fact it is also Glaucoma Awareness Month.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition that damages your optic nerve and progresses over time. It’s caused when the pressure inside your eye rises to a dangerously high level. More than 3 million people in the U.S. and 60 million people worldwide have glaucoma and half of patients are not even aware of it.
Also known as “the sneak thief of sight,” glaucoma progresses very slowly, and develops over many years without causing any pain or warning signs. About 40 percent of vision can be lost without noticing, which is why many people don’t experience vision loss until the disease has passed the point of no return. Currently about 120,000 cases (4 percent) in the U.S. are blind from glaucoma, making it the second leading cause of blindness in the world. People at the greatest risk include those who are over the age of 40, African-American, or who have a family history of glaucoma. This is why regular eye exams and early detection are critical to maintaining eye health.
Types of Glaucoma
The two main types of glaucoma are: primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. These types are measured by an increase of intraocular pressure. If damage is shown on an optic nerve, despite having a normal pressure reading, this means the individual has normal tension glaucoma.
Secondary glaucoma is the result of any additional disease in the eye or body that contributes to an increase in eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss. Secondary glaucoma can be either open-angle or angle-closure and it can occur in one or both eyes.
While many patients who have glaucoma don’t experience any symptoms until significant vision is lost, some symptoms include blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, halo effects around lights and painful or reddened eyes.
Regular eye exams are imperative to help in detecting and preventing vision loss. If diagnosed early enough, glaucoma can be controlled. Treatments to lower pressure in the eye include non-surgical methods such as prescription eye drops and medications. Laser therapy and surgery can also help prevent pressure buildup and further vision loss. Keep in mind that the appropriate treatment will depend on the type of glaucoma.
Talk to your doctor about scheduling a comprehensive eye exam.