Glaucoma is a family of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, a network of nerve fibers that connects the retina with the brain. Although glaucoma affects more than 3 million Americans, half are unaware they have it. This isn’t surprising, according to the 2015 American Eye-Q® Survey from the American Optometric Association. The study found most people are not familiar with the causes, risks and treatments for glaucoma.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, so test your knowledge of glaucoma with this brief true/false quiz adapted from the American Eye-Q® survey:
True or False: Glaucoma usually has early warning signs and symptoms.
False. Early glaucoma symptoms are rare.
If you answered incorrectly, you’re not alone. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed believed glaucoma usually has early warning signs. Aptly nicknamed the “sneak thief of sight,” glaucoma typically does not show symptoms at an early stage. Primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common form, typically develops slowly and without pain. Over time, optic nerve deterioration gradually reduces the visual field, affecting only peripheral vision at first. By the time a person notices vision changes like patchy blind spots or tunnel vision, glaucoma has often progressed to an advanced stage.
True or False: Glaucoma is curable with prompt treatment.
False. Optic nerve damage is irreversible, and there is no cure for glaucoma.
Oral medication, prescription eye drops, glaucoma surgery and laser treatment can slow the progression of glaucoma, but there is no treatment to stop the disease or therapy to regain lost vision. The prognosis of glaucoma depends on how early it is detected. If an ophthalmologist diagnoses glaucoma before the optic nerve has been significantly damaged, vision loss can be minimized.
True or False: Glaucoma is preventable.
False. Even though 69 percent of those surveyed believed glaucoma is preventable, no medication, diet or lifestyle change can prevent it.
The best way to preserve your vision is to know your risk for glaucoma. One of the primary risk factors for developing glaucoma is heredity, so it’s important to know your family health history. If glaucoma runs in your family, you may need to visit your ophthalmologist more often. You are also at elevated risk if you:
- Are over 60
- Are of African American or Hispanic descent
- Have diabetes or hypertension
Although you can’t prevent glaucoma, you can manage your risk for developing it by:
- Scheduling yearly comprehensive eye exams with dilation
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins
- Taking all prescribed medication
- Visiting your primary care physician regularly to manage chronic health conditions
Annual Eye Exams Detect Glaucoma Early
Schedule a comprehensive eye exam so your ophthalmologist can determine your risk for developing glaucoma. Your doctor will evaluate your medical history and perform tests to provide you with a detailed assessment of your eye health. Yearly exams will help ensure early diagnosis and immediate treatment for any degenerative eye condition like glaucoma, cataracts or macular degeneration.
Are you looking for an ophthalmologist who is skilled in treating glaucoma? Click here for a list of board-certified eye specialists in your area.