Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that robs people of their vision. Currently, it ranks as the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. At St. Michael’s Eye & Laser Institute, we find that many of our patients do not know much about glaucoma, figuring it is something they can learn about when they are older. As they get older, however, they may still not take the time to become familiar with the symptoms and the consequences of leaving glaucoma untreated. To better educate our patients, our eye doctors offer this blog with important facts about glaucoma.
1. NEARLY HALF OF AMERICANS WITH GLAUCOMA DO NOT REALIZE THEY HAVE IT
Researchers estimate that approximately 50% of the over 3 million Americans who have glaucoma are unaware that they have this eye condition. It can go unnoticed for a couple reasons: the symptoms are slight when glaucoma is in its earliest stages and/or these people blame other causes, such as getting older, for their declining vision.
The saddest part is that diagnosing glaucoma should not be difficult: it is easy to detect with a comprehensive eye exam. A tonometry (that one test that is best remembered for blowing a gust of air at your eye) is designed to check inner eye pressure.
2. GLAUCOMA IS INCURABLE
The bad news is that scientists have yet to discover a cure for glaucoma. The good news is that, in the meantime, doctors have highly successful treatments for mitigating or delaying glaucoma’s effects. Those who undergo these treatments, especially early, can often preserve their vision for the remainder of their lives. Prescription eyedrops can help many patients generate less fluid in their eyes. Some need a surgical procedure to create better openings for fluid to escape from the eye.
3. THE TERM “GLAUCOMA” CAN REFER TO ONE OF DOZENS OF CONDITIONS
Glaucoma is an umbrella term that describes fluid accumulation in the eye. It is important for doctors and patients to understand the differences in types of glaucoma since that can dictate which treatments are most useful.
The most common form of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma. This is where the eyes do not drain properly, creating a fluid backup inside the eye. Consequently, the accumulation of pressure hurts the optic nerve and causes irreversible loss of vision.
The second most common form of glaucoma is closed-angle glaucoma. This version usually strikes one eye at a time. Closed-angle glaucoma shuts the eye’s drainage canals totally, which means the pressure builds quickly, causing vision to deteriorate at an accelerated speed.
4. RISKS FACTORS FOR GLAUCOMA
While anyone can get glaucoma, certain people are at elevated risk for this condition. The biggest risk factor is age, with patients over 60 most susceptible. Non-white patients (Black, Asian, Hispanic) are also more likely to have glaucoma. Patients with hypertension, diabetes or heart disease also experience glaucoma at higher rates. Our eye doctors encourage anyone who fits into these categories to undergo regular eye exams.
SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION
If you are worried that you may have glaucoma, or if you are overdue on having an eye exam, please schedule an appointment at our office in Largo, Florida by calling (727) 585-2200.