Glaucoma is a progressive eye condition that affects roughly 3 million adults in the U.S. Add to that the number of caregivers looking after loved ones with full or partial blindness as a result of glaucoma, and the impact this illness has on the public is almost immeasurable. What makes glaucoma especially insidious is the fact that most people don’t even notice a change in their vision until the condition has progressed to an advanced stage.
In order to avoid blindness caused by glaucoma, it is essential to be aware of its risk factors, as well as get regular eye exams and diagnostic testing. Although vision loss from glaucoma can’t be recovered, it can be slowed or prevented when caught early. This blog is meant to help you and your loved ones learn how to do just that.
Types of Glaucoma and Their Symptoms
Many people don’t realize there are actually multiple types of glaucoma. Two of the more common types are open angle and acute angle closure. Symptoms will vary depending on what type you have, and what stage of the disease you are at. In general, the symptoms of open angle and acute angle closure glaucoma include the following:
Open Angle Glaucoma
- Patchy blind spots in peripheral or central vision (usually in both eyes)
- Tunnel vision (in advanced stages)
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma
- Severe headache
- Eye pain and redness
- Blurred vision
- Halos around lights
Risk Factors For Glaucoma
Although everyone is at risk for glaucoma, certain groups are statistically more likely to contract the disease than others. If you fall into one or more of the categories below, talk to your eye doctor about how frequently you should be scheduled for eye exams, and whether or not diagnostic testing is appropriate.
High-risk groups for glaucoma include people who:
- Are African-American, Hispanic, Asian or a member of an Indigenous group (e.g. Eskimo)
- Are far-sighted
- Suffer from poor vision in general
- Are over age 40
- Have family members with glaucoma
- Have experienced trauma or an accident involving the eyes
- Have diabetes
- Use steroids
How To Prevent Glaucoma
Although there is no way to completely prevent glaucoma, there are steps you can take to slow the progression of the condition and to avoid full or partial blindness:
- Get Regular, Dilated Eye Exams. Regular check-ups allow your ophthalmologist to check your eye pressure and the size/color of your optic nerve. Even if you do not feel or notice any problems, these things could be showing signs of distress that only an eye doctor can detect. Continuous monitoring of the eyes will enable your doctor to slow down or stop the progression of glaucoma once any early abnormalities are detected.
- Tell Your Doctor About A Family History of Glaucoma. Since glaucoma can often be inherited, you should let your doctor know about any family history of the disease. If your doctor believes you're at an increased risk of getting glaucoma, you may need more frequent screenings.
- Eat Well And Exercise Regularly. The food we eat has a major impact on our eye pressure, so it’s best to avoid foods that raise insulin levels (e.g. sugary drinks, white bread, pasta). Studies have also shown that exercise greatly improves circulation, which can reduce pressure on the eyes.
- Don’t Skip Doses On Eye Drops. Once diagnosed, most people with glaucoma are treated with eye drops that reduce the pressure in the eye. But many patients do not take their prescription eye drops as directed because they have no symptoms - a common problem that prevents proper care in glaucoma cases. It’s very important to follow your eye drop prescription to the letter, as this will regulate eye fluid and help lower your eye pressure.
While healthy habits can help reduce your risk of glaucoma, early detection is ultimately the best way to prevent glaucoma-induced vision loss. If you or a loved one is at risk for glaucoma, or if you are due for an annual eye exam, we encourage you to schedule a visit as soon as possible. Our ophthalmologists have extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma and can help you continue to see clearly.
If you have questions about glaucoma or any other condition related to eye health, call 412-288-0858 or Request an Appointment today.