Did you know that glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States? According to the National Eye Institute, nearly 3 million people have glaucoma, but 50 percent don’t know they have it. In its early stages, glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms. By the time symptoms become noticeable, your vision could already be impaired. However, if detected early, severe vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month and now is a good time to learn about how to protect your vision.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can result in vision loss and blindness by damaging the eye’s optic nerve. Glaucoma often has no signs, such as pain or changes in vision. Only advanced glaucoma changes your vision. However, the initial start of glaucoma is a collection of fluid that increases eye pressure, which causes nerve damage. Advanced glaucoma first affects your peripheral or side vision. As it progresses, more noticeable vision problems will occur including permanent vision loss and blindness.
What’s my risk?
Anyone can develop the disease, but you may be at a higher risk for developing glaucoma if you:
- Are African American and age 40 or older
- Are over age 60, especially if you are Hispanic/Latino
- Have a family history of the disease
What can I do?
There is no cure for glaucoma. However, medications and surgical procedures can delay the disease’s advance by controlling the fluid pressure in the eye. The greatest defense against vision loss from glaucoma is getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam every year from an eye care professional. During this type of examination, the eye care provider will place drops in your eyes to widen the pupils and look for signs of glaucoma in the optic nerve.
Questions to ask your eye care provider
- What kinds of tests will be performed?
- What can I expect to find out from these tests?
- When will I receive the results?
- Should I do anything special to prepare for any of the tests?
- Do these tests have any side effects or risks?
- How long will my eyes be dilated?
- Will I need someone to drive me and/or pick me up?
- I am in one of the higher risk groups for glaucoma, will I need more tests later?
If you are experiencing vision changes or have concerns about developing glaucoma, contact your eye care provider about scheduling an appointment for an eye examination.