January 27, 2021
Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight
January is National Glaucoma Awareness month and it is recognized each year to raise awareness of the risk factors and signs of glaucoma. Regardless of age, glaucoma is an eye disease that can affect people of all ages, but primarily affects the middle- aged and elderly groups. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness in the United States for people over the age of 60 years old, it impacts more than 2.7 million American lives that are age 40 or older. Even with treatment or surgery there is no cure and it is not reversible. Early detection can be vital to stopping the progression of this eye disease with regular eye exams from your eye doctor who can help diagnose it at an early stage. Awareness and early detection are the best medicine in stopping the silent thief of sight.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve by gradually stealing your sight without warning. The optic nerve is responsible for sending images to your brain, and damage to your optic nerve can be serious and even cause permanent vision loss or total blindness. The damage usually happens when fluid builds up in the front of your eye and the extra fluid increases the overall pressure in your eye. However, some people who develop glaucoma may never have increased eye pressure.
Types of Glaucoma
There are several forms of glaucoma cases, however the most common forms are open- angle glaucoma and closed- angle glaucoma. Open- angle glaucoma is the known to be the most common type according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, as it is responsible for over 90% of all glaucoma cases.
Open- angle glaucoma develops slowly where fluid accumulates when the drainage area of the eye does not drain fluid as well becoming less functional and increasing eye pressure. When the eye doesn’t properly drain the correct amount of fluid this causes the increased eye pressure and increased eye pressure causes damage to the optic nerve. The vision loss is gradual and often little to no early warning signs.
Closed- angle glaucoma is a less common form of glaucoma that is caused by blocked drainage canals causing eye pressure to rise very quickly. It is different from open- angle as the eye pressure rises rapidly and the drainage area suddenly becomes blocked from the iris blocking the drainage angle.
Other types of glaucoma include:
Unfortunately, many forms of glaucoma have little to no symptoms. Many people are unaware of the warning signs from the disease as they can be very gradual, which can result in not knowing of the condition until it has become advanced. Early treatment can usually slow the progression of the disease (but not always). This means regular eye exams with your local eye doctor are of high importance if you have any warning signs, or if glaucoma is a condition that runs in your family. These exams should include eye pressure measurements to monitor changes and so a diagnosis can be made and treated appropriately. Your local eye doctor will refer you to a glaucoma specialist or surgeon at Wolfe Eye Clinic if further treatment is needed. Glaucoma can cause blindness if left untreated. Treatment typically includes prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment, glaucoma surgery or any combinations of these.
Open- angle glaucoma symptoms may include:
- Patchy blind spots in your peripheral vision
- Tunnel vision in the advanced stages
Closed- angle glaucoma symptoms may include:
- Severe headaches
- Eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Halos around lights and eye redness
Learn More About Glaucoma Symptoms & Treatments
Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?
Family history, poor vision, high blood pressure, thin corneas, diabetes, over the age of 40 or taking steroids may put people at a higher risk for developing glaucoma. African Americans are at a higher- than- average risk than others. Irish, Japanese, Inuit, Scandinavian, Hispanic or Russian descent may also have a higher risk factor.
Glaucoma Prevention and Care
It is important to get regular dilated eye examinations and know your family’s eye health history in preventing glaucoma from stealing your sight. Wolfe Eye Clinic offers specialized glaucoma doctors throughout the state of Iowa who are skilled ophthalmologists with expertise in evaluation and treating all types of glaucoma. Your eye doctor may refer you to a glaucoma specialist for further treatment and Wolfe Eye Clinic is here to help. Give us a call at (833) 474-5850 to schedule an appointment, or fill out our form here.