Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of permanent blindness, affecting more than twelve million people worldwide. The eyes of a person with glaucoma are damaged when fluid builds up and increases pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma symptoms vary, but can include peripheral vision loss, sudden blurring of vision and eye pain. Due to the slow, gradual onset of glaucoma, many people do not realise their vision is deteriorating until it’s too late. If left untreated, glaucoma can worsen and spread until vision is lost entirely. Thankfully, with proper preventative eye care, it is possible to keep glaucoma from affecting your life. This makes screening an important part of your regular eye exams but it’s a good idea to learn the facts and preventative eye care methods.
Who is at Risk?
Glaucoma can affect anyone, but there are some groups who have increased risk for contracting the disease. Risk for glaucoma rises as you age, especially above 40. Also individuals with high pressure in the eyes are more likely to suffer from glaucoma. Diabetes, near-sightedness, high blood pressure, race or ethnicity, or gender can increase your risk as well. Your doctor may also ask if there is a family history of glaucoma as there are some hereditary contributing factors as well.
What is Glaucoma?
The optic nerve transmits visual information from your eye to your brain. Glaucoma is a disease that puts increased pressure on the optic nerve. The added pressure causes the optic nerve to become damaged and deteriorates peripheral vision. Many will not notice the gradual loss of vision until it’s severely diminished. Over the years glaucoma will reduce your central vision as well, eventually resulting in permanent blindness. Less common types of glaucoma affect the eye rapidly and can occur in one eye at a time. It’s important to know that vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible, so early identification and treatment is critical in fighting the disease.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
Generally, many patients can halt the progression of glaucoma and alleviate symptoms by applying daily eye drops. While there is no cure for glaucoma, medication in the eyes can decrease eye pressure by slowing eye fluid production or increase eye outflow, preventing further vision loss.
In some cases, medication cannot sufficiently decrease the eye pressure that causes glaucoma. In these situations, laser or surgical treatments may be able to stop the progression of the disease. As always it’s best to speak with your doctor about the facts if you think you may be at risk.