Glaucoma 101: Symptoms, Detection and Treatment

Glaucoma displayed on tablet screen

You have likely heard of glaucoma, but if you had to, could you explain the disease to someone else? Are you familiar with the risk factors? Do you know how it can be detected?

Now is the ideal time to learn about the disease because January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve. Sensitivity to inner eye pressure can impair the optic nerve, the nerve which transmits information between the eye and the brain. When optic nerve damage occurs, this causes vision loss, which is irreversible.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is known as “the silent thief of sight” because it has few symptoms or warning signs in the early stages, and it usually causes no pain. It is possible to experience a significant decrease in visual field before noticing symptoms, and this vision loss is irreversible.

Because glaucoma is so challenging to detect, it is important to have routine comprehensive dilated eye exams. Age is a risk factor for glaucoma, so people over the age of 40 should have a dilated eye exam at least every two years. African Americans, people who have a family history of glaucoma, and people over 60 should have a comprehensive eye exam every year.

What are the Types of Glaucoma?

There are several types of glaucoma, but the most common type is primary open angle glaucoma (POAG). POAG develops when inner eye fluid does not drain properly, gradually causing eye pressure to build. Less common is angle closure glaucoma which can cause eye pressure to increase quickly and can cause symptoms of nausea, headaches, eye pain and blurred vision. Normal tension glaucoma, or low-pressure glaucoma, has no symptoms and damages the optic nerve even in the absence of elevated pressure.

If it has been over a year since you have had a comprehensive eye exam, call your ophthalmologist to make an appointment. And now that you know more about glaucoma, share your knowledge with family members and friends and make your loved ones aware of this “silent thief” during Glaucoma Awareness Month.