According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is the second largest cause of preventable vision loss in this country. It is called the "sneak thief of sight" because it has no symptoms and progresses slowly over time. By the time a person is aware they have glaucoma about 40% of their vision is permanently lost. January has been designated as National Glaucoma Awareness Month in order to educate the general public, people who are at high risk and medical professionals about this sneaky eye disease.
What causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma occurs when the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises, leading to vision loss or even blindness. There is clear fluid that flows in and out of small spaces at the front of the eye called the anterior chamber. This fluid bathes and nourishes nearby tissues. If this fluid drains too slowly, pressure builds up and damages the optic nerve.
Who is at risk?
African Americans over age 40, everyone over age 60, Mexican Americans, and people with a family history of glaucoma.
What are the signs?
At first there are no symptoms. The vision is normal and there is no pain, but over time the peripheral vision gradually fails. That means objects in front can be seen, but objects to the side cannot. As the disease progresses the field of vision narrows and blindness results.
What can be done?
Getting an eye exam every year is the best way to fight glaucoma. Be sure that it is comprehensive and that your eyes are dilated. During the exam, the doctor will do an eye pressure check to see if you have glaucoma.
How can Glaucoma be treated?
There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but it can be treated and controlled with regular medication and/or surgery. Medication usually comes in the form of eye drops that will reduce the pressure by slowing the flow of fluid in the eye so that it does not build up. Sometimes laser surgery is offered where laser beams are focused on specific parts of the eye to reduce pressure and allows fluid to exit the eye.
For more information on Glaucoma check out these websites below:
The Glaucoma Research Foundation
National Eye Institute/National Eye Health Education Program