January: Glaucoma Awareness Month
Glaucoma has no warning signs.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. In the United States, 2.7 million Americans over the age of 40 suffer from glaucoma.
Here Is What You Need to Know
What causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease that is most commonly caused by fluid build-up in front of the eye, causing high eye pressure. However, you can have normal eye pressure with damaged optic nerves resulting from low oxygen flow to the optic nerve. Both instances can result in damage to optic nerve cells, resulting in glaucoma.
In the US, Primary Open Angle Glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. Undiagnosed glaucoma can lead to irreversible blindness; thus early detection and treatment is key to saving your sight.
Practical Tips to Protect Your Sight
Know your risk
Everyone is at risk for Glaucoma. However, older individuals are at a greater risk. Glaucoma is not often symptomatic in the early stages and is heavily associated with genetics; however, in most cases, it does not present until later in life. The most common risk factors for glaucoma are:
- Age 65 and older
- Family History (glaucoma in a parent, grandparent or sibling)
- Race (African descent, Central or South American descent)
- High eye pressure
- Large Optic Nerve
- History of sleep apnea (Low-Tension Glaucoma)
Have annual dilated eye exams
Dilated eye examinations require drops to make your pupils bigger, allowing your doctor to view and examine your entire retina. Establishing a relationship with your eye doctor is important, because a healthy doctor-patient relationship will allow you to be comfortable discussing your eye health concerns. It often helps to visit the same doctor annually to establish a good ocular health history.
There is no direct correlation between smoking and glaucoma damage. However, elderly individuals who smoke have a higher risk of elevated eye pressure. Overall, smoking is bad for your sight, and increases dry eyes, macular degeneration and cataracts.
Have annual optic nerve and retina wellness screenings
There is technology now available to scan and screen your optic nerve for early signs of optic nerve damage. An iWellness screening is a non-invasive in-office scan that can sometimes detect glaucoma changes 3-5 years earlier than your eye doctor.
Know your family history
Genetics plays a huge role in the development of glaucoma. Talk to your family and create a family health log. You can create the log on google sheets and store it on the internet with password protected access. It is important to interview your family and update the log annually.
Glaucoma has no warning signs, so stay on top of your eye health. Don’t wait until you start to lose your sight. Visit your eye doctor annually to screen for blinding eye diseases. Healthy eyes are very important for a healthy life.
Clinical Director at Brilliant Eyes Vision Center