Glaucoma - The Sneaky Thief of Sight
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month!
Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss and blindness in the United States. It is associated with damage to the optic nerve, and the most common form, open-angle glaucoma, is associated with elevated eye pressure. With no early symptoms, it develops gradually, which means that often people with glaucoma do not notice anything is wrong until their vision is already significantly damaged.
The National Eye Institute states that half of people with glaucoma do not even know that they have it. Because there are typically no warning signs, glaucoma is often called the “sneaky thief of sight.” In later stages of open-angle glaucoma, irreversible blind spots in the peripheral vision are caused due to damage of the optic nerve. This makes it incredibly important to have regular comprehensive eye exams, so the disease can be detected before significant vision loss! Detecting and treating glaucoma as early as possible will prevent future damage and protect your vision.
So how is glaucoma detected?
You may be familiar with the puff of air test that is commonly used to detect glaucoma. This works by measuring the eye’s pressure. However, the test is often uncomfortable and dreaded - no need to worry, we don’t use that test here! At Bright Eyes, we use the handheld iCare tonometer (seen below!) which is painless and quick. Some describe the feeling like an eyelash tickling, and it lasts less than a minute.
We also use iWellness technology to perform scans of the retina, which can allow us to screen for the earliest signs of diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration.
You are at a higher risk for glaucoma if you meet any of these criteria:
Age 60 or over (with an even higher risk if you are Hispanic)
Are African American and over age 40
Have a family history of glaucoma
Have myopia (nearsightedness)
According to the CDC, African Americans are 6 to 8 times more likely to develop glaucoma than their Caucasian counterparts.
Prescription eye drops, which will reduce the pressure in the eye
Laser treatment to drain fluid from the eye
Surgery (if neither of the above options are successful)
Be sure to have regular comprehensive exams - typically, this means annually, but your doctor may recommend more frequent exams depending on your age and eye health status.