Glaucoma occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve. When fluid in the eye called aqueous humor does not drain properly, pressure in the eyes increases. This increased pressure damages the optic nerve, which is vital in maintaining good vision. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, especially for people over 60. However, blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.
Here are some important facts about glaucoma you should keep in mind in regards to your ocular health:
1. More than 2.7 million Americans over age 40 have glaucoma. That number is estimated to more than double by 2050. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States.
2. Anyone can develop glaucoma. Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 45. In some cases, babies and children can get a rare form of early onset glaucoma, or glaucoma may occur as a result of eye injury. Glaucoma is also more likely in people of African, Hispanic, or Asian descent, as well as in people who have a family history of glaucoma.
3. Getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to catch glaucoma early. During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, eye drops are used to dilate, or widen, the pupil. An optometrist or ophthalmologist then uses a magnifying lens to examine the back of the eye for signs of damage. People in a higher risk group should usually be examined every 1 to 2 years.
4. In the early stages of glaucoma, there are often no symptoms. There are several reasons people miss catching glaucoma early, and lack of symptoms is one of the biggest reasons. Glaucoma is most treatable in the early stages, before symptoms develop.
5. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve is like a data cable coming out of the back of the eye. It carries visual information to the brain. Glaucoma damages the nerve cells, which act as “wires” in the cable, disrupting the flow of visual information.
6. Once glaucoma damages the optic nerve, lost vision cannot be restored. The most effective method of avoiding glaucoma-related blindness is early detection. Most vision loss due to glaucoma can be prevented if caught early.
7. Eye pressure is a major risk factor for glaucoma. Treatments for glaucoma involve lowering intraocular pressure (IOP). However, some people with high IOP may not develop glaucoma, and some people may develop glaucoma without having increased IOP.
8. The only clinically proven treatment for glaucoma is to lower eye pressure. There are several treatment options available to patients. Your ophthalmologist will help determine which treatment is most suited to your situation.
Catching the progression of glaucoma early is vital to avoid irreversible damage to your optic nerve and resulting vision loss or blindness. Stay abreast of your current eye health by seeking routine preventative care from your local eye clinic.
Shunai Jiang, M.D. is an ophthalmologist at the Marietta Eye Clinic who specializes in cataracts and glaucoma. She serves the Kennestone, Canton, and East Cobb locations. Dr. Jiang studied at Jilin University in China and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, the home of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. She received her residency training in ophthalmology from the University of Louisville and fellowship training in glaucoma from Emory University. She is a member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Glaucoma Society. Read her full bio here.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry, optometric professionals, and optometry students.
The Marietta Eye Clinic glaucoma center
The American Academy of Ophthalmology
The Mayo Clinic
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