Glaucoma – an Alarming Eye Disease

Glaucoma – an Alarming Eye Disease

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Take time to understand this alarming disease and what can be done about it. Glaucoma is called the “sneak thief of sight” as there are no symptoms and once vision is lost it cannot be regained. Surprisingly, as much as 40 percent of sight can be lost without a person noticing.
Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase. And, about half of these people do not know they have it. The good news is that Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Awareness can be the difference between keeping one’s sight versus losing it.

What is Glaucoma?
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually take sight away without warning. The loss of vision is caused by damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries images from the eye to the brain. It acts like an electric cable that has a million wires. The most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and seniors, but it can affect people of all ages.

Types of Glaucoma
There are two primary types of glaucoma: primary and secondary. Technically, primary is “open-angle” glaucoma (POAG), and “angle-closure” glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called “normal tension glaucoma.” Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.

Who is at Risk?
High-risk groups include people 60+, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular comprehensive eye exams are especially important for people in those groups.

Treatment
Currently, there is no cure for glaucoma. Like many diseases, early detection is critical to stopping its progress. The sooner the disease is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start. Medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors.

What One Should Do
Get regular eye exams. If in a “high-risk group” a comprehensive eye exam is important. If Glaucoma is detected, treatment can begin immediately.

 

Glaucoma is devastating to its victims and their families. People who understand the disease and take preventative action will give themselves and their families a brighter tomorrow.