Glaucoma–Early Detection Can Help Preserve Vision

How often during the day do you use your eyes? Most of us can’t count the number of times we use our vision every day.

Now picture how different your day would be if you had a vision problem.

About 3.4 million Americans age 40 and older have a significant visual impairment. That’s enough people to populate a mid-size city in every state.

A sizable percentage of these folks — about 2.2 million — have glaucoma.

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that have one thing in common: They can damage your eyes’ optic nerves and potentially lead to blindness.

The optic nerves are the million or so nerve fibers that carry visual messages from your eyes to your brain.

Glaucoma typically happens when the fluid pressure inside your eye slowly rises. The increase in pressure usually happens because the natural flow of the fluid in and out of the eye is interrupted. Essentially, the fluid flows in, but it doesn’t flow out at the same rate.

However, some types of glaucoma develop without an increase in the eye pressure.

What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

The tricky part about glaucoma is that some forms don’t have any warning signs.

Getting regular eye exams is the best way to catch and begin treatment of glaucoma. Although it isn’t curable, diagnosing and treating glaucoma early can help slow its progression. Seeing an eye care professional is essential for diagnosing and treating glaucoma.

Open-angle glaucoma is known as the silent thief of sight. You may not notice any change in vision until the damage is severe.

Once this form of the disease has advanced, you may notice:

  • Blind spots in your peripheral (side) vision.

Normal tension glaucoma develops without an increase in eye pressure. However, with this form of the disease you may notice:

  • Blind spots in the field of vision.

Angle-closure glaucoma can develop without symptoms. When signs do emerge, they can come on suddenly and include:

  • Intense eye pain.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Sudden loss of sight.
  • Severe headaches.
  • Nausea with eye pain.
  • Vomiting with eye pain.

Are You at Risk for Glaucoma?

You should have a comprehensive eye exam every two years. It's even more important if you're in one or more of these risk categories.

  • Over age 40.
  • African-American
  • Mexican-American
  • Have a family history of glaucoma.
  • Have had an eye injury.
  • Have high fluid pressure.
  • Have diabetes, migraines or a blood circulation issue.

If you have questions about your eye health, see your eye care specialist. You can find a provider online. On the “Find a Doctor” page, add your City/ZIP to find the providers nearest you.


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Meet the Author

Josephine-Liezl Palomares Cueto, MD is an ophthalmologist at Aurora Health Center in Waukesha, WI. 

Read more posts from this author

The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.

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