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Healthy Living

glaucoma

January:  Glaucoma Awareness Month

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a specific pattern of optic nerve damage and visual field loss caused by a number of different eye diseases which can affect the eye. Most, but not all of these diseases, are characterized by elevated intraocular pressure, which is not the disease itself, but the most important risk factor for the development of glaucoma.  The disease is called the `sneak thief of sight´ because it strikes without obvious symptoms. Therefore, the person with glaucoma is usually unaware of it until serious loss of vision has occurred.   In fact, half of those suffering damage from glaucoma do not know it.   Currently, damage from glaucoma cannot be reversed.   Research funded by The Glaucoma Foundation seeks to find a cure.

For further details, see Patient Guide:  Doctor, I Have a Question.

Who is at risk for glaucoma?

Everyone should be concerned about glaucoma and its effects.   It is important for each of us, from infants to senior citizens, to have our eyes checked regularly, because early detection and treatment of glaucoma are the only ways to prevent vision impairment and blindness.   There are a few conditions related to this disease which tend to put some people at greater risk.   This may apply to you if:

  • you are over 45 and have not had your eyes examined regularly
  • someone in your family has a history of glaucoma
  • you have abnormally high intraocular pressure
  • you are of African descent
  • you have diabetes
  • myopia (nearsighted)
  • regular, long-term steroid/cortisone use
  • previous eye injury

In angle-closure glaucoma, intraocular pressure (IOP) can increase suddenly, causing an angle-closure (acute glaucoma) attack. This attack can occur within a matter of hours and become very painful. Possible indications include:

  • intense pain, which may result in nausea and vomiting
  • red eye(s)
  • swollen or cloudy cornea(s)
  • halos around lights (rainbow-colored rings around lights)
  • recurrent blurry vision
  • morning headaches
  • pain around your eyes after watching TV or leaving a dark theater

See also Patient Guide:  , Doctor, I Have a Question.

Please consult the chart below to determine how often you should visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive glaucoma examination.   This chart is based upon age and whether or not you have any characteristics (as listed above) that place you at greater risk of developing glaucoma.

How Often Should You Get an Eye Exam?

 

If You Have No Risk Factors For Glaucoma*

If You Have Risk Factors for Glaucoma*

Under 45 years old:

Every 4 years

Every 2 years

45 years & older:

Every 2 years

Every year

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, your doctor will set a treatment cycle based upon your medical needs.

*Risk factors for Glaucoma:

  • Family history
  • myopia (nearsightedness)
  • previous eye injury
  • low blood pressure

  • African descent
  • diabetes
  • long exposure to cortisone

How do I find out if I have glaucoma?

Your eye doctor can perform a series of simple tests which will help to determine whether or not you have glaucoma or are especially likely to develop the disease -- even before you have any symptoms.   The diagnostic tools available to your doctor are described in our Patient Guide:  Doctor, I Have a Question.

How do I minimize the risk of getting glaucoma?

The most important thing you can do to protect your vision from glaucoma is to have regular eye exams.   If your eye doctor finds that you have the disease or that you are at risk for the disease, he or she can recommend treatment to minimize the risks or the effects of the disease.

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