Do you have problems with your peripheral or side vision? Do you have blurred vision, nausea, and headaches? Do you sometimes see “halos” around bright lights? If so, you may be experiencing some of the early symptoms of glaucoma, an eye condition that affects more than 60 million people worldwide and is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness. Glaucoma occurs when injury or anatomical irregularity interferes with the continuous flow of aqueous humor into and out of the eye’s anterior chamber. If this clear, nutrient-rich fluid fails to drain properly, pressure can build up inside the eye, eventually damaging the ocular nerve and causing permanent vision loss. While there is no cure for glaucoma, it can often be treated and even prevented if caught in the early stages. Here are some significant facts about this potentially debilitating condition.
- About 2.3 million Americans suffer from glaucoma, but it is estimated that an additional 2 million have the disease and don’t even know it. There are virtually no symptoms and no pain associated with the increased eye pressure. A comprehensive eye exam can diagnose the disease early, before it causes permanent vision loss.
- Men and women of all ages, from babies to senior citizens, are at risk for glaucoma. Although older people are at a somewhat higher risk, young adults can get glaucoma and babies can even be born with the condition. High risk groups include people over sixty, people with family members who have already been diagnosed with the disease, diabetics, and people with severe nearsightedness.
- Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among African Americans, who experience glaucoma at a rate three times that of whites and suffer blindness four times more frequently. Between the ages of 45 and 64, glaucoma is 15 times more likely to cause blindness in African Americans than in whites.
- A survey conducted by the Glaucoma Research Foundation found that even though 74% of those interviewed said that they had their eyes examined at least every two years, only 61% of those (less than half of all adult Americans) were receiving a comprehensive dilated eye exam, which is the best and most effective way to detect glaucoma.
- In the early stages, glaucoma damages side or peripheral vision. As vision loss progresses, the effect is like looking through a tube or into a narrow tunnel. Many naturally compensate for this constricted “tunnel vision” effect by unconsciously turning the head to the side, and may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.
- Although glaucoma cannot be prevented, early detection and treatment can control the progression of the condition and reduce the chances of permanent eye damage. Many cases of glaucoma can be effectively addressed with prescription eye drops and other regular medications that help reduce intraocular pressure and help keep the optic nerve healthy.
- In some cases, laser therapy or the FDA-approved iStent® Trabecular Micro-Bypass medical device, a tiny device that can be implanted in the eye itself in order to improve the eye’s natural outflow and thereby lower the fluid pressure inside the eye.
Glaucoma is just one of the several serious eye conditions that can be detected with a comprehensive eye exam, and The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that all men and women undergo a complete comprehensive eye exam at least once between the ages of 20 and 29, at least twice between the ages of 30 and 39, and annually thereafter. Further, because every set of eyes is different, it is recommended that all patients get a baseline eye disease screening at age 40, the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to occur. If you have questions about the health of your eyes, or would like to schedule an eye exam, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons to make an appointment with Dr. William Segal or Dr. Marc Lay. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information on how to keep your vision clear.