When it comes to eye-related diseases and conditions, few issues are more serious than glaucoma. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of the signs of glaucoma, which means they miss the window of time to prevent irreparable damage. Educating yourself on the symptoms could help you improve your own outlook.
What is Glaucoma?
“Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It’s often linked to a buildup of pressure inside your eye,” WebMD notes. “Glaucoma tends to be inherited and may not show up until later in life.”
As intraocular pressure pushes down on the optic nerve, it inhibits the eye’s ability to transmit visual images to the brain. Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to permanent blindness in a matter of just a few years.
More than 3 million Americans live with glaucoma at any given time. Roughly 90 percent of these individuals are over the age of 40.
The Signs of Glaucoma
There are two main types of glaucoma. Open-angle is the most common form and is estimated to affect approximately 95 percent of all individuals with the condition. Unfortunately, open-angle glaucoma has no initial symptoms. This makes it hard to identify early on.
Most people with open-angle glaucoma will notice gradual loss of peripheral vision over time. This typically occurs in both eyes simultaneously. In the advanced stages, this loss of sight leads to tunnel vision.
“Because open-angle glaucoma has few warning signs or symptoms before damage has occurred, it is important to see a doctor for regular eye examinations,” Glaucoma Research Foundation advises. “If glaucoma is detected during an eye exam, your eye doctor can prescribe a preventative treatment to help protect your vision.”
Acute-angle closure only occurs in roughly five percent of glaucoma diagnoses, but it still affects hundreds of thousands of people every year. The major symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma include severe eye pain, sudden onset of visual disturbance (generally in low light), nausea and vomiting (accompanied by pain), blurred vision, halos around lights, and reddening of the eye.
“This type of glaucoma is a medical emergency. See an ophthalmologist or go to an emergency room immediately,” WebMD suggests. “Damage to the optic nerve may begin within a few hours and, if not treated within 6 to 12 hours, it may bring severe permanent loss of vision or blindness and even a permanently enlarged (dilated) pupil.”
Treatment Options for Glaucoma
Whether it’s open-angle or acute-angle, glaucoma is a serious condition. It’s not something that should be ignored. Doing so could lead to significant long-term damage.
“If you’re dealing with glaucoma, there are a range of treatment options available to mitigate its effects,” LasikSurgery.com mentions. “Prescription eye drops can help moderate intraocular pressure, as can several supplementary oral medications. If a more aggressive course of treatment is needed, laser surgery can be used to drain fluid from the eye to help reduce internal pressure.”
However, all of these treatment options are reactive. And when you’re dealing with a condition in which damage is irreversible, a reactive approach isn’t very effective. The best thing you can do is get an annual eye exam to pick up on early symptoms and mitigate the effects.
In addition to helping you spot the early signs of glaucoma, annual eye exams can identify other eye-related issues, including:
Vision problems. People often live years – even decades – without knowing they have vision problems. After all, there’s nothing to compare your vision with. You only know what you see. An eye exam can reveal issues like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatisms.
Digital eyestrain. With as many hours as the average person spends staring at screens each day, it’s not uncommon for people to experience digital eyestrain. Getting an exam can reveal this issue and provide early treatment options.
Sun damage. While most people think about sun damage in terms of skin, UV rays are just as big of a threat to the eyes. In fact, sun damage is one of the leading causes of blindness. An annual eye exam can help you spot early signs of damage.
Your eyes are among your most important physical assets. Take care of them by being proactive in how you approach healthcare and treatment. It’s the only way to ensure you’ll maintain good vision for years to come.