Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions which can damage your optic nerve. When the fluid produced by your body (called aqueous humor) does not drain properly, the pressure in the front part of your eyes increases. This increased pressure damages your optic nerve. Your optic nerve is vital to maintaining good vision. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old. However, blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.
Here are some important facts about glaucoma you should know to ensure optimal eye health:
- 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 developed countries.
- 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. If you are in one of these groups you are at higher risk of glaucoma: African Americans over age 40, people over age 60 (especially Mexican Americans), and people with a family history of glaucoma.
- Getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to catch glaucoma early. During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, drops are placed in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil. We then use a special magnifying lens to examine the back of your eye and look for signs of damage or problems. If you are in a higher risk group, you should usually be examined every one to two years.
- Don’t wait for symptoms. There are several reasons people miss catching glaucoma early including lack of awareness and lack of symptoms. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision. Over time, central (straight-ahead) vision is also affected.
- Glaucoma damages the eye’s optic nerve. The optic nerve is like a data cable coming out of the back of your eye. It carries visual information to your brain. Glaucoma damages the nerve cells or “wires” in your cable, disrupting the flow of visual information.
- Once glaucoma damages your optic nerve, lost vision cannot be restored. The most effective method of assuring you don’t experience glaucoma related blindness is early detection. When early detection is combined with treatment, slowing or stopping glaucoma progression occurs at a much higher frequency.
- Eye pressure is a major risk factor for glaucoma. Even with increased eye pressure you may not develop glaucoma. Additionally, glaucoma can develop without increased eye pressure. Routine eye exams from a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist are vital to maintain your visual health.
- The only clinically proven treatment for glaucoma is to lower eye pressure. There are several treatment modalities 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.
- The Marietta Eye Clinic glaucoma center at https://www.mariettaeye.com/our-services/glaucoma-center/.
- The American Academy of Ophthalmology at https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-is-glaucoma.
- The Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/glaucoma/symptoms-causes/syc-20372839.