What Is Glaucoma?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but half of people with the condition don’t know that they have it.
Glaucoma is one of the top causes of blindness in the world, and our eye care specialists at Trumansburg Optical know that a diagnosis can be frightening at first. However, even if you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, there are steps that you can take to help keep your eyes healthy and lower your risk of vision loss.
The term “glaucoma” refers broadly to conditions that can diminish your vision through damage to the optic nerve.
While there are many different types of glaucoma, the condition normally occurs when fluid builds up in your eye and damages the optic nerve. With open-angle glaucoma, old fluid doesn’t drain away properly, causing pressure to rise. This damages the tiny fibers that make up the optic nerve, causing blind spots over time.
According to the National Eye Institute, other types of glaucoma are less common, but include primary glaucomas (like open-angle glaucoma, which doesn’t result from another condition) and secondary glaucomas (which is caused by another medical condition, such as extra blood vessels in the eye).
In some cases, pressure in the eye remains normal, while glaucoma still develops. This is called normal-tension glaucoma, and it is a type of open-angle glaucoma.
Impairment usually begins with your peripheral vision, and may progress to affect your central vision (what you see looking forward). When glaucoma reduces your vision, it can become difficult to complete daily activities, even with the help of glasses or contacts.
How Do I Know If I Have Glaucoma?
Glaucoma begins gradually, and often doesn’t present symptoms early on. This subtlety is why the American Academy of Ophtalmology calls it a “silent thief of sight.” The difficulty detecting glaucoma early on, before loss of vision, makes it especially important to get regular eye exams.
At an eye exam, your ophthalmologist can conduct a number of tests to screen for glaucoma, such as measuring pressure in your eyes or taking pictures and computer measurements of your optic nerve.
While there’s often no way to know that you have glaucoma before it presents itself (at which point the damage is permanent), some people are at higher risk than others for the condition. If you have a family history of glaucoma, are over age 40, or are of African, Hispanic/Latino, or Asian heritage, then your doctor may suggest more frequent check-ups.
Scheduling an Eye Exam
Because damage from glaucoma is permanent, it’s especially important to get regular eye exams that screen for it. When glaucoma is found early, treatments such as surgery and medication can be used to help control it. To learn more about glaucoma screenings or treatments, reach out to Trumansburg Optical today.