Understand the Causes and Risks Of Glaucoma & Schedule Routine Eye Exams

The American Academy of Ophthalmology has named January Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States, while the most common presentation of glaucoma often has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages.

When glaucoma develops, vision loss progresses so gradually that people affected by the condition are often unaware of it until their sight has already been compromised.

Due to the lack of symptoms in most cases of glaucoma, the American Academy of Ophthalmology advises the public that the best defense against developing glaucoma-related blindness is to maintain routine, comprehensive eye exams.

Dr. Steven Rhee of Hawaiian Eye of Hawaiian Eye Center shares, “Like many illnesses that progress slowly over time, the best preventative measure against developing vision loss from glaucoma is by early detection of symptoms, only possible by having regular eye exams. When glaucoma is in its early stages, most vision loss is preventable with early detection and medical intervention.”

The most common form of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, in which the drainage angle for eye fluid remains open.

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common presentation with the gradual onset of symptoms, without pain.

Less common types of glaucoma include closed-angle glaucoma and normal-tension glaucoma, which can come on gradually or suddenly. The sudden presentation may involve severe eye pain, blurred vision, and other bodily symptoms.

Those most at risk of developing glaucoma include those:
Aged 40 and older
Who are siblings of people diagnosed with glaucoma or have a family history of glaucoma
– Of African and Hispanic descent in older age groups
– Diagnosed with diabetes or high blood pressure
Who have had an eye injury or eye surgery

Most known risk factors of glaucoma are not preventable and the optic nerve is unable to regenerate after any damage has occurred.

However, glaucoma can be controlled with an early diagnosis and treatment to slow down or stop further damage. Treatment for glaucoma ranges from topical medications to laser surgery, which helps to lower the internal pressure of the eye and resulting symptoms.

For people of older age groups or with a family history of glaucoma should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam every two to three years from an eye care professional to check for glaucoma and other eye diseases. People at higher risk of developing glaucoma should get eye exams annually, including those 40 and over or with other known risk factors. 

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