Known as the “sneak thief of sight,” glaucoma can strike without warning and is the leading cause of permanent blindness. It is estimated that approximately half of people with glaucoma are unaware they have the disease. Each January, Glaucoma.org and other eye organizations are promoting education and awareness in hopes of prevention. As a member of the healthcare community, AMPM would like to help the effort to inform people about this potentially devastating disease.
What is Glaucoma?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, glaucoma is a disease that targets the optic nerve. This is usually by way of fluid buildup in the front part of the eye. Fluid build up puts pressure on the nerve and eventually damages it beyond repair. There are two main types of glaucoma:
- Primary open angle glaucoma — this is where the eye is not releasing fluid properly, akin to a faulty drain. The pressure caused is painless, which is why many sufferers do not know they have the disease until it is too late. Vision loss occurs slowly, usually beginning with peripheral vision before consuming frontal vision in time.
- Angle closure glaucoma — this type of glaucoma usually culminates in an acute attack. It occurs when the iris and drainage angle are very close to the point where the iris ends up blocking drainage. When this occurs, pressure builds up very quickly, leading to symptoms such as blurred vision, headaches, nausea, and the appearance of rainbow halos around lights. An attack such as this will need to be treated immediately to prevent permanent blindness.
In both cases, the symptoms preceding an attack or blindness can be minimal to none. Ophthalmologists recommend regular exams in order to catch glaucoma before blindness occurs. This is especially important if you are at a higher risk.
Who is at higher risk?
While everyone is at risk for the disease, certain groups have a higher risk than others. Race can play a role in determining your risk. For example, African American people are six to eight times more likely to develop the disease than people of European descent. Hispanic and Asian people also have an increased likelihood of developing glaucoma.
As with many diseases, age and family history can be a large factor. Doctors recommend regular eye exams after the age of 60, regardless of risk. People with an already increased risk should become extra vigilant as they age. Primary open angle glaucoma is hereditary, so it is important to know if you have any family history of this disease, especially a parent or sibling.
Can glaucoma be prevented?
The best form of prevention is an eye exam done on a regular basis. For those with average risk, an eye exam should be performed every one to two years after age 60. However, it is recommended that those of higher risk should begin regular exams after age 35.
While there is currently no way of preventing glaucoma from occurring, catching it early on can prevent the damage and blindness associated with later stages of the disease. In addition, doctors recommend a moderate exercise routine as a way to relieve eye pressure. And as always, wear eye protection while performing activities where the eyes may become injured by particles or fumes. Eye related injury can also increase your risk of developing the disease.
Talk to friends and family members about glaucoma, especially those over 60, and encourage them to talk to their doctor about their risk. If you’d like to learn more about the disease and how to help, please visit glaucoma.org.
Disclaimer: The materials contained on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal or other professional advice on any subject matter. Advanced Medical Practice Management does not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site.