Glaucoma is a group of slowly progressing eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve acts like a wire carrying information from the eye to the brain. The damage causes peripheral or side vision loss initially, but in advanced stages it can lead to central vision loss and blindness. High eye pressure is often associated with a diagnosis of glaucoma, which is accurate in many cases. However, glaucoma can also develop in people with normal eye pressure.
Glaucoma affects nearly 3 million Americans and is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. The condition is referred to as “the sneak thief of sight” because there are no warning signs or symptoms. By the time a patient is aware of vision loss, the disease has already caused considerable and irreparable damage and is usually quite advanced. People of all ages can develop the disease, but certain factors can increase the risk. These include:
- Family history of glaucoma
- People over age 60
- African Americans over age 40
- Medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease
- Eye-related risk factors such as eye trauma, thin corneas, retinal detachments, eye inflammations, and certain optic nerve appearances
- Long-term corticosteroid use
The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get annual dilated eye examinations. There is no cure for glaucoma and currently, it cannot be prevented. However, if detected early and treated, it usually can be controlled with little or no further vision loss.
For more information on glaucoma, visit the American Optometric Association website at www.aoa.org.