January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, and according to the NIH, glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the United States. Glaucoma has no early symptoms, which is why half of people with glaucoma don’t know they have it.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve and cause vision loss or even blindness if they are not treated. The optic nerve is a group of nerves that sends information from the eye to the brain.
What causes glaucoma?
At the front of the eye, there is a small opening through which clear fluid flows in and out. This clear fluid nourishes the eye tissue around it. When the clear fluid flows too slowly, it puts pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause glaucoma and vision loss.
Who is at risk?
Anyone can get glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk, including people who:
- Are over age 60
- Are Black/African American and over age 40
- Are Hispanic/Latino
- Have a family history of glaucoma
Are there warning signs?
In the early stages, there are often no symptoms or pain. As glaucoma worsens, you may gradually lose your peripheral vision. If left untreated, it may cause you to miss objects to the side and out of the corner of your eye. It’s as if you’re looking through a tunnel. Straight-ahead vision may deteriorate over time until no vision remains.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
A comprehensive dilated eye exam performed by an eye care professional can determine if you have glaucoma. Drops are placed in your eyes during the exam to widen, or dilate, the pupils. The optic nerve is then examined for damage using a specialized lens. Close-up vision may be blurry for several hours following the exam. You may also get a visual field test to see if your vision has changed in the edges of your field of vision.
What treatments exist for glaucoma?
Glaucoma can’t be cured, but it can be treated so that it doesn’t get worse. Detecting it early is critical to protecting your vision. Eye drops and medications can help your eyes produce less fluid or drain fluid from the eye properly. Laser surgery can also make it easier for fluid to exit the eye. Regular surgery can create a new space for the fluid to drain.
Protect your vision. Don’t be left in the dark.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam should be performed at least every two years. This is especially important if you are an African American over the age of 40, over the age of 60, especially if you are Mexican American, or if you have a family history of glaucoma. Early detection and treatment of glaucoma can help prevent the disease from worsening and reduce your risk of vision loss. For some people at high risk of glaucoma, Medicare will pay for an annual dilated eye exam. This includes diabetics, people with a family history of glaucoma, and African Americans aged 50 and up.
Half of the people with glaucoma in the United States don’t know they have it. Glaucoma affects nearly 3 million Americans. People don’t catch the disease early because they don’t know about it and there are no symptoms. You have the power to change that!
MCR is here to help.
Our optometrists take pride in caring for your family’s eye health. Our optometrists have a lot of experience working with people of all ages, so they can give thorough eye exams and treat a wide range of eye diseases and disorders. Services include the diagnosis, treatment, and management of glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, ocular injuries, pink eye, and dry eyes. We also provide consultation and co-management for ocular surgeries with local partners.
Schedule an appointment with one of our optometrists today!