More than three million people in the United States have glaucoma. It’s an eye disease that damages the eyes’ optic nerves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that this number will double by 2050. Are you at a higher risk of developing glaucoma? Here’s what you need to know about one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness in the country.
There are various types of glaucoma. Each type has its own set of manifestations. The most common type, though, is painless and develops gradually. This means that there are no symptoms in its early stages. This type of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma. It occurs when your eye doesn’t drain as it’s supposed to. The clogging results in eye pressure buildup, thus damaging your optic nerve. You can go years before any sign starts to surface. It’s not uncommon for a person to have already lost significant vision before they’re diagnosed with the condition.
The other common type is called angle-closure glaucoma or closed-angle glaucoma. It occurs when the iris is very close to your eye’s drainage angle. As a result, your iris may end up obstructing the drainage angle. The problem can occur gradually or suddenly. Once the drainage angle gets completely clogged, the pressure in your eye can rise very quickly. This is known as an acute attack, which is a true eye emergency. You have to contact your eye doctor immediately, or you risk going blind. Many patients with this particular type of glaucoma develop it slowly. It’s referred to as chronic angle-closure glaucoma. It also generally has no symptoms at first. So, you won’t know you have the condition until it’s already advanced or you have an acute attack.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology confirms that the only surefire way to diagnose glaucoma is by undergoing a comprehensive eye examination. A glaucoma screening may check for eye pressure. But it’s not enough to detect glaucoma.
During the complete eye exam, your eye doctor will not only measure your eye pressure, but they will also test your peripheral vision and take a look at the drainage angle of your eyes. Aside from that, your doctor will take pictures of your optic nerve and examine it for any signs of damage. Your doctor will also take measurements to inspect the thickness of your cornea.
Even with treatment or surgery, vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible. Since the most common type of glaucoma has little to no early warning signs at all, you must see your eye doctor for routine eye exams. Once glaucoma is detected early, they will prescribe a preventive care plan to help protect your vision. Only with early diagnosis and intervention can you stop or mitigate the risks of going blind from glaucoma. The CDC strengthens several strategies recognized to prevent this eye disease, especially among those at increased risk. These include interventions that offer cost-effective, if not free, eye exams as well as educational programs. Outreach aimed at aiding people to the resources they need also plays a significant role.
Do you have a family history of glaucoma? Don’t wait for this eye disease to affect your vision and your quality of life.
Learn more about diagnosing & care options for glaucoma, contact Trinity Vision Center in Walla Walla, WA at (509) 260-3500 to book an appointment.