More than 3 million Americans have glaucoma, which is a group of diseases that affect a major nerve in the eye. Unfortunately, glaucoma can lead to vision loss and is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States and around the world.
The good news about glaucoma is that early detection and treatment can help protect you from losing your sight.
Dr. David O’Day at Charleston Cornea & Refractive Surgery believes that educating yourself about glaucoma is one of the best ways to protect your eye health.
Here are some important facts to know about glaucoma.
Glaucoma Affects the Optic Nerve
Your eyes are complicated organs that transmit visual information from the outside world to your brain. After light enters your eyes, your retinas convert it into electrical impulses that travel to your brain via a nerve known as your optic nerve.
Your optic nerve is actually a bundle of more than a million nerve fibers. If these fibers become damaged, as they do in people with glaucoma, they are less able to transmit information to your brain.
Pressure Can Harm Your Nerves
Glaucoma can occur when pressure increases in your eyes. Pressure builds up for various reasons — for example when fluid that passes within the eyes fails to drain properly.
Not everyone with increased pressure in their eyes develops glaucoma, and not all types of glaucoma are associated with excess pressure. As you can see, glaucoma is complicated.
Though there is no proof that high blood pressure increases the risk of developing glaucoma, research suggests there may be an association between the two.
To keep your blood pressure in check, cut back on salt, exercise regularly, keep your weight in a healthy range, and take blood pressure medication if your doctor prescribes it.
Anyone Can Develop Glaucoma
Glaucoma can strike people of any age, gender, or race. But glaucoma is more common among African Americans over age 40, people with a family history of glaucoma, and everyone over age 60, especially Mexican Americans.
Do Not Wait for Symptoms
Unlike other types of diseases, early glaucoma causes no pain or symptoms. As it progresses, it can reduce your peripheral vision in one or both eyes. Even if your vision seems fine, you should still have regular eye exams.
No cure exists for glaucoma, and treatment can’t restore lost vision. Early detection offers the best approach to prevention.
Treatment Helps Prevent Vision Loss
In people who have certain risk factors, medicated eyedrops can lower the risk of developing glaucoma by about half.
Laser treatments can also reduce risk by draining fluid and lowering pressure in the eyes. And conventional surgery may help some people.
Eye Exams Make a Difference
To find out if you are at risk for glaucoma, make an appointment for an eye checkup with Dr. O’Day. During your eye exam, he uses drops to dilate your pupils. Dilation allows him to thoroughly examine the various parts of your eyes that are associated with glaucoma, such as your cornea, your optic nerve, and your overall eye pressure.
He also checks your vision and looks for evidence of any other eye health concerns.
Then, if Dr. O’Day feels you would benefit from treatment of any kind, he explains how you can best take care of your eyes and your vision.
You can’t eliminate your risk of developing glaucoma completely. But by seeing Dr. O’Day for regular eye exams and taking steps to maintain good eye health, you can dramatically improve your chances of protecting your vision.