Despite the fact that glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, many people simply don't understand this tragic disease. To protect your health and the health of your family, it's essential to understand the basics of glaucoma. Here's what you need to know.
1. Glaucoma Rates Are Growing
Currently, glaucoma affects approximately 2.7 million people, and most are over the age of 40. This number is anticipated to double by the year 2050. The growing rate underscores how important it is to get checked regularly.
2. Glaucoma Affects People of All Ages
Although glaucoma predominantly affects older people, it can affect people of any age. Even children can be diagnosed with this condition. In most cases, when children or babies have glaucoma, it gets diagnosed before their first birthday. To be on the safe side, children and adults of all ages should get tested for glaucoma regularly.
3. Glaucoma Often Presents No Symptoms
In many cases, glaucoma has no presenting symptoms until it's too late. With children, the symptoms may include very large eyes, cloudy eyes, unusual amounts of tearing and light sensitivity.
Adults with acute angle glaucoma may notice rainbow halos around bright lights and hazy vision. They may also experience headaches and severe eye pain sometimes accompanied by vomiting. This type of glaucoma is caused by an overly acute (small) angle between the iris and the cornea. The small angle causes pressure to build up which eventually damages the nerve.
However, the most common type of glaucoma is open angle glaucoma. With open angle glaucoma, the patient has a normal angle between the iris and the cornea, but their drainage canals are blocked. Again, this blockage causes pressure to build up and eventually damage the nerve. This type of glaucoma has almost no symptoms. Patients maintain sharp, accurate vision, and then, they go blind very quickly. In some cases, they may lose some peripheral vision first, but that's often not noticeable.
4. Glaucoma Is Not Reversible
Basically, glaucoma breaks the nerve that connects your eye to your brain. Without that nerve, your eye can't communicate with your brain, and you can't see as a result. Once you go blind, the condition is not reversible. While you can't reverse glaucoma, you can keep the effects at bay if you catch the condition early.
5. Testing for Glaucoma Is Essential
Getting tested for glaucoma is relatively straightforward. Usually, the ophthalmologist or another eye care professional will start with a pressure test. A pressure test comprises of a machine that blows a puff of air at your eye to check its pressure levels. Note that excessive pressure in your eye doesn't always lead to glaucoma, but it does indicate that you may have an increased risk of developing the condition.
The more accurate way to test glaucoma is with a comprehensive dilated eye test. That involves putting drops in your eye, dilating your eye with light and examining the back of the eye with a magnifying glass.
6. Glaucoma Can Be Prevented
If you have a likelihood of getting glaucoma, an eye care professional can help you treat that in a number of ways. A range of medications, including drops and lens that release medications slowly into your eyes, are available.
Other things you can do to prevent glaucoma include is regularly exercising and wearing eye protection when working with power tools or playing sports—in some cases; glaucoma can be caused by a sudden injury.
Surgeries can also help. At Beeve Vision Care Center, we offer Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT). This laser surgery can help reduce pressure by improving drainage in your eye. Contact us today to set up an exam. Even if you don't have vision issues, we can test your eyes for glaucoma.