Glaucoma: Are You at Risk?
It is estimated that only half of the 2.2 million Americans with glaucoma are even aware they have it. Glaucoma can be subtle at first, with no fireworks, no flashy symptoms. In the absence of obvious manifestations, many people do not realize the need for regular exams to check for disease. Ignorance is not bliss in this case–the price may be your vision.
So, what is glaucoma, exactly? It’s a serious visual disease that damages the optic nerve, which is the communication connection between the eye and the brain. Your optic nerve is similar to a bundle of cables or wires (1.2 million nerve fibers!) that transmits information from one device to another (your retina to your brain). When affected by glaucoma, the optic nerve begins to suffer significant damage. This nerve damage is associated with high eye pressure, caused by a backup of fluid in the eye. If left undiscovered and/or untreated, glaucoma leads to serious vision loss or possible blindness.
“Most people who have glaucoma don’t notice symptoms until they begin to lose some vision. But vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented if it’s detected and treated in time,” says Dr. Bret Crumpton, our fellowship-trained eye surgeon and glaucoma specialist. “As part of Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, we urge you to get a complete eye exam if you’re at risk for developing glaucoma.”
Who’s at risk?
- People of African-American, Asian, or Latino descent
- Those with a family history of glaucoma or optic nerve diseases
- Those with health conditions like diabetes
- People with abnormally high eye pressure
- People who have experienced a severe eye injury
Individuals who fall into one or more of these categories should talk with their ophthalmologist about how often an eye exam should be performed to ensure good vision.
How to protect yourself from blindness via glaucoma? Although glaucoma cannot be cured, early detection and treatment may usually preserve vision. Know your risk factors and have your eyes examined at the intervals recommended by your ophthalmologist.