Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness for people over 50 years old.
Glaucoma is a disease that causes damage to the optic nerve over time. The optic nerve is the cable that connects the eyeball to the brain. It is commonly associated with high pressure in the eye, but that is not always the case.
Who is at most risk of glaucoma?
An estimated three million Americans have glaucoma and it can affect anyone at any age, but those at most risk are people over age 40, people with a family history of glaucoma, and those with high eye pressure.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Unfortunately, it is also estimated that almost half of those 3 million people do not know that they have glaucoma. In the early stages, the most common form of chronic glaucoma has no warning signs or symptoms. As the disease progresses, those with glaucoma may experience:
- Frequent mild headaches
- Increased difficulty with night vision
- A noticeable loss of peripheral vision
- Recurring redness in one or both eyes often accompanied by blurred vision and/or pain
Early detection is the key to fighting glaucoma, because glaucoma tends to develop slowly and, if caught before any early symptoms manifest, it is possible to receive treatment that can help preserve your vision.
Routine eye exams are key to early detection of glaucoma
Since there are no symptoms in early stages of the disease, it is important for adults 35 years old and over to stay on top of routine comprehensive eye exams. A comprehensive eye exam every year is a must, especially for patients with a family history of glaucoma.
During the exams, eye care specialists perform a simple, painless test to measure your eye pressure and evaluate your retina and optic nerve. If the tests indicate an unusually high pressure or the optic nerve appears to be abnormal, your doctor will likely recommend a visual field test to determine if any peripheral vision has been lost.
How is glaucoma treated?
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma early enough, there are a few treatments that may be effective in preventing vision loss including medications and surgery. In most cases, your doctor will start with eye drops or oral medications, but if those treatments do not control your glaucoma, your doctor may recommend surgery. There are multiple surgical treatments for glaucoma including laser glaucoma surgery and trabecular surgery or a trabeculectomy.
Additional information on glaucoma and glaucoma treatments
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