January Is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Older woman with glaucoma smiling

Glaucoma is often known as the silent thief of vision because it doesn’t have many symptoms. In most cases, people don’t know they have glaucoma until damage to their vision has already occurred.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. It is estimated that several million people in the U.S. have glaucoma, and only half of them know it.

It is possible to develop glaucoma at any age. People who are over 60, diabetics, those who are severely nearsighted, and those with a family history of glaucoma are at higher risk. African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians develop glaucoma at much higher rates than others.

Did you know that January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month? Here at VisionFirst Eye Center, we are dedicated to educating our patients and the community about vision health. Keep reading to learn more about glaucoma!

What Is Glaucoma?

Most people have heard of glaucoma but they aren’t sure what it is. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve.

Most glaucomas are associated with elevated eye (intraocular) pressure. When damage to the optic nerve occurs, it can no longer send signals to the brain, which is essential for seeing.

There is brand new research that suggests that vision loss in those with glaucoma is caused by an immune response to early exposure to bacteria. This can elevate eye pressure and trigger heat shock proteins.

What Is The Most Common Type Of Glaucoma?

The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, which develops slowly. Elevated eye pressure (IOP) is sometimes caused by a blockage in the eye’s drainage system.

Some chronic narrowing of the angle between the iris and the cornea can cause the disease. Most people do not notice early symptoms because glaucoma attacks the side (peripheral) vision before it affects central vision.

Angle-closure glaucoma occurs suddenly when fluid in the eye cannot drain. Because fluid cannot drain from the eye, it causes a rapid increase in eye pressure.

Symptoms include severe pain and nausea, blurry vision, and redness in the eye.  This is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. Not treating angle-closure glaucoma can result in severe damage to vision.

Is Glaucoma Preventable Or Reversible?

Unfortunately, most types of glaucoma are not preventable. But early detection and treatment can usually control the disease before severe vision loss occurs.

If you are over the age of 40, the most important thing you can do for your eyes is to have an annual eye examination. Because glaucoma usually affects side vision first, you may not notice any vision changes.

For this reason, everyone over the age of 40 should have an annual eye examination that includes dilation of the pupils. Your eye care specialist should check your eye pressure and the condition of your optic nerve.

If there is any suspicion of glaucoma, more tests such as evaluation of your angles, visual field tests, and imaging of your optic nerve may be performed as well.

There is no cure for glaucoma, but its damaging effects can be controlled. Glaucoma is usually treated by lowering the pressure in the eye, regardless of the cause.

Ophthalmologists usually start treatment with medicated eye drops. There are a variety of effective laser treatments and surgical procedures for more advanced symptoms.

The good news is that many innovative and less invasive treatments have been developed in the last decade.

Want to take control of your ocular health? Schedule an appointment at VisionFirst Eye Center in Birmingham, AL!

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