7 Things You Should Know About Glaucoma
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recognizes January as Glaucoma Awareness Month. Most of us know that the “puff of air” test at our annual eye exam measures eye pressure, and high eye pressure can indicate glaucoma. But how many of us know exactly what glaucoma is, or if we are at high risk of developing it?
We’ve compiled 7 things everyone should know about glaucoma. Take a moment to learn more about this potentially blinding eye disease and how to know if you have it.
1. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve.
The optic nerve allows us to see by transmitting visual information to the brain. Retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) are output nerve cells that carry visual messages along the optic nerve. When eye pressure (intra-ocular pressure, or IOP) becomes high enough, it damages and progressively destroys RGC function.
2. Glaucoma discriminates.
African Americans are six to eight times more likely to develop glaucoma than white Americans. Glaucoma-induced blindness is also six to eight times more common in African Americans. Hispanic Americans have a risk comparable to African Americans, and the disease often progresses faster than in other ethnic groups.
3. Age, genes, and diabetes are additional glaucoma risk factors.
Although people of any age can have glaucoma—even babies—older people are at higher risk of developing the condition. African Americans over the age of 40 are at increased risk, as are Caucasians and Hispanic/Latinos aged 60 and older.
If someone in your family has glaucoma, your risk is also elevated. People with diabetes have twice the chance of developing glaucoma as non-diabetics. And severely nearsighted people are also at high risk of developing glaucoma.
- There are different types of glaucoma.
It’s estimated that over 60 million people worldwide have glaucoma. In the United States, approximately 3 million people have glaucoma—but only half of those know it.
At least 90 percent of people with glaucoma have the open-angle type, also called primary or chronic glaucoma. Other less common types of glaucoma include:
- Angle-closure or acute
5. Glaucoma is stealthy, progressively reducing vision with little or no symptoms.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness, but the most common form (open-angle glaucoma) has virtually no symptoms in its early stages. That’s because it’s rare for increased eye pressure to cause pain. Loss of peripheral—or side--vision is sometimes the first sign a person has that something is wrong. By the time that happens, the disease is already well-established.
6. A comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to diagnose glaucoma.
Catching glaucoma in its early stages is just one of the reasons you should have regularly scheduled comprehensive eye exams. The earlier treatment is started, the better the outcome.
7. There’s no cure for glaucoma, but it can be managed.
It’s possible to slow vision loss from glaucoma with medication or surgery. Open-angle glaucoma is a chronic condition that must be monitored for life. Unfortunately, even with proper treatment, about 10 percent of people with glaucoma still experience vision loss.
At Allied Eye, we help you see the world more clearly through quality eye care. Our one-stop shop offers comprehensive eye exams, cataract surgery with multifocal implants, diabetic eye exams, LASIK, treatment for dry/watery eyes, and so much more! We even have Allied Optical Shop inside our facility for your convenience. Call or text us at (423) 855-8522 to learn how Allied Eye can help with your eye care needs, or to schedule an appointment.