January is National Glaucoma Awareness month so let’s spread the word on this sight-stealing disease.
What Exactly Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease that causes damage to the optic nerve inside of the eye. Since the optic nerve is responsible for transmitting images to the brain, glaucoma can lead to progressive and irreversible vision loss over time if left untreated. Glaucoma is often associated with an elevated intra-ocular pressure which damages these nerves. Once these nerves are gone, the damage is permanent.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, (cataracts being the most common), according to the World Health Organization. Currently, an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States have glaucoma and the number is only expected to rise as our population ages.
Who Is At Risk?
Those with a family history of glaucoma, especially a first-degree relative such as a parent or sibling are more at risk. Race is a risk factor as African-Americans are at a 3X greater risk for developing a type of glaucoma called open-angle glaucoma, while Asian-Americans are at an increased risk for narrow-angle glaucoma. Other risk factors include being over the age of 60, diabetics and those who are very nearsighted.
How Do I Know If I Have Glaucoma?
More than likely a person with glaucoma will not experience any symptoms until they have lost approximately 40% of their vision. In fact, glaucoma is often referred to as the “silent thief of sight”. However, with a type of glaucoma called acute angle-closure glaucoma, patients may experience blurred vision with halos around lights and intense eye pain and nausea. If you or anyone you know experiences these symptoms, see or eye doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.
With moderate or advance glaucoma, a person will notice a decrease in their peripheral vision, eventually leading to a “tunnel vision”.
Normal Vision vs. Glaucoma
What Can I Do To Prevent It?
Good lifestyle habits such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking and staying active can help reduce your risk of developing glaucoma.An annual eye exam is also recommended to evaluate the health of the eyes and determine if there are any signs of glaucoma since early detection and treatment is the best way to preserve as much of the vision as possible. We use an instrument called a tonometer to measure the eye pressure and determine if it is within an acceptable range to maintain eye health. A visual field machine is used to test the peripheral vision and look for any signs of side vision loss. We also use digital retinal photography to capture an image of the inside of the eye which allows us to better monitor any signs of glaucoma. We use the most up to date technology to help to make sure your eyes are in tip-top shape, call us today to schedule your appointment.