Glaucoma: Keep an Eye Out for Your Sight
By: Dr. Maria Denietolis, Licensed Optometrist
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss or blindness. Risk factors for developing glaucoma include high or increased eye pressure, a thinner than average cornea, and abnormalities in the structures that drain fluid from the eye. Those who are over the age of 60, have diabetes, and a family history of glaucoma are especially at risk. Glaucoma tends to have an insidious onset with very few symptoms that can be perceived by the patient. Therefore, it’s important to make sure you see your eye care provider regularly so it can be detected and treated early. Prompt treatment can protect your eyes against serious vision loss.
Eye Disease Questions to Ask:
- If you don’t understand your eye care professional’s responses, ask questions until you do understand.
- Take notes or get a friend or family member to take notes for you.
- Ask your eye care professional for printed material about your condition.
- Other members of your healthcare team, such as nurses and pharmacists, can be good sources of information. Talk to them, too.
Today, patients take an active role in their health care. Be an active patient about your eye care.
Source: The National Eye Institute (NEI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the Federal government’s lead agency for vision research that leads to sight-saving treatments and plays a key role in reducing visual impairment and blindness.
There are two major forms of glaucoma. Unfortunately, at the onset of the most common – primary open-angle glaucoma – there are no obvious symptoms, making it important for those at risk to get regular eye exams. When left untreated and the disease begins to develop, peripheral vision slowly deteriorates and quick attention can make a difference in the overall prognosis. Signs people experience include the loss of peripheral vision, making them unable to see people or objects that are to the side or in the corner of their eyesight. At the end stage, it may appear as if you’re ‘looking through a tunnel’. The other form – angle-closure glaucoma – is caused by a problem in the drainage structures of the eye, and eye pressure rises quickly, which can cause an “acute angle closure attack.” This is an ocular emergency and can cause blindness if the pressure is not reduced in a timely manner. Signs include sudden blurry vision, severe eye pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, seeing halos or colored rings. You should call your doctor right away if you experience any of these symptoms.
There are several procedures and tests that are used to assess a person’s risk for developing glaucoma, including a vision check, pressure measurement, evaluating the thickness of the cornea and examining the optic nerve for signs of damage. A dilated eye exam is the best way to detect any nerve or retinal damage.
If you’re at risk for glaucoma or concerned about vision loss, it’s time to talk to your eye care professional. A good place to start is with a comprehensive eye exam and glaucoma screening.
Remember, glaucoma is commonly referred to as the “silent thief of sight” because of its relative lack of pain and symptoms, until irreversible vision loss occurs. Just as you should visit your primary care doctor regularly, you should schedule your routine eye exams. Practicing an overall healthy lifestyle also has eye health benefits and can reduce your risk for glaucoma. It’s always wise to get regular exercise, quit smoking or don’t start, wear sunglasses, and eat a healthy diet.