Glaucoma is a chronic disease and could potentially lead to blindness if it is not detected early enough. Glaucoma is one of the top causes for blindness, among other diseases. In the beginning stages of glaucoma, patients typically do not experience any symptoms. It is hard to detect without proper testing. This why it is recommended to get eye exams regularly for those over the age of 40.
Treatments may include:
- Eye drops to lower the pressure – very important for you to use them faithfully!
- Laser treatment to open up channels of fluid flow.
- Special surgeries if the first two treatments have not proved effective.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a serious eye condition that can cause blindness. It damages the optic nerve, which carries information from your eyes to the visual center in your brain. This damage can result in permanent vision loss.
The most common type of glaucoma has no early warning signs and can only be detected during a comprehensive eye exam. If undetected and untreated, glaucoma first causes peripheral vision loss and eventually can lead to blindness.
By the time you notice vision loss from glaucoma, it’s too late. The lost vision cannot be restored, and it’s very likely you may experience additional vision loss, even after glaucoma treatment begins.
The only way to protect yourself and your family from vision loss and even blindness from glaucoma is to visit an eye doctor near you for routine comprehensive eye exams.
Only an optometrist or ophthalmologist is trained to spot the early warning signs of glaucoma and to begin glaucoma treatment before vision loss occurs.
Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma
The intraocular pressure caused by glaucoma can slowly damage the optic nerve, causing a gradual loss of vision. Vision loss begins with peripheral (side) vision, resulting in limited tunnel vision. Over time if left untreated, central vision will also be affected which will increase until it eventually causes total blindness. Unfortunately, any vision that is lost from the optic nerve damage cannot be restored.
What are the Symptoms?
Typically, glaucoma sets in without any symptoms. At the early onset of the most common type of glaucoma “open angle” glaucoma, vision remains normal and there is no pain or discomfort. This is why the disease is nicknamed the “sneak thief of sight”.
An acute type of glaucoma, called angle-closure glaucoma, can present sudden symptoms such as foggy, blurred vision, halos around lights, eye pain, headache and even nausea. This is a medical emergency and should be assessed immediately as the intraocular pressure can become extremely high and cause permanent damage within hours.
The use of topical medication (prescription eye drops) is the most common treatment for early glaucoma. The purpose of glaucoma eye drops is to reduce IOP to prevent vision loss.
The same medications used to treat glaucoma also are used to treat high eye pressure (without optic nerve damage or vision loss) to prevent the onset of glaucoma.
Types of glaucoma eye drops
There are several categories and many brands of glaucoma eye drops. Your eye doctor will prescribe the medication(s) that he or she feels will be most effective for your individual needs.
In some cases, more than one type of eye drop may be required and prescribed.
Using glaucoma eye drops
Glaucoma typically is a chronic condition — meaning it’s possible you may need to use eye drops every day for the rest of your life to prevent vision loss from glaucoma.
In some cases, your eye doctor may also prescribe oral medicine (pills) to reduce your risk of vision loss.
For your own safety and well-being, it’s important for you to take your daily glaucoma medication(s) as directed. Being careless and failing to comply with glaucoma treatment regimens eye doctors prescribe is one of the main causes of blindness from glaucoma.
If you find that the eye drops you are using for glaucoma are uncomfortable or inconvenient, never discontinue them without first consulting your eye doctor about a possible alternative therapy.
Can glaucoma be prevented? Recent research suggests regular exercise reduces glaucoma risk — possibly because it improves blood flow throughout the body, including the eyes.
In addition to regular exercise and an active lifestyle, you also may be able to reduce your risk for glaucoma by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a varied and healthy diet.
Worried about glaucoma?