Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness and vision loss in the United States. There are close to 3 million people who currently have glaucoma in our country. Half of them don’t even know they have it because glaucoma has no symptoms in the early stages. By 2030, it is predicted that 4.2 million people will have this eye disease in the United States. A very scary thing. That is one of the reasons that Healthy People 2030 has an objective focused on prevention of vision loss due to glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a chronic and progressive eye disease caused by damage to the optic nerve. A major risk factor is increased eye pressure due to an abnormality in the eye’s drainage system. The optic nerve is damaged due to the excessive pressure, although glaucoma can develop in someone with normal eye pressure. It is diagnosed with a comprehensive eye exam where your eyes are dilated with special eye drops. The doctor can see the back of the eye and the optic nerve clearly. While your pupils are dilated, the doctor will examine the optic nerve to look for the signs of glaucoma and any other eye problems.
One of the first signs of glaucoma is the loss of peripheral vision, especially the vision close to your nose. Since it happens slowly, many people can’t tell their vision has been affected in the beginning. As it progresses, glaucoma affects your central vision so driving and reading can become a problem.
Although there are different forms of glaucoma, the most common one is called primary open-angle glaucoma. It can affect one or both eyes, does not have symptoms and is hereditary. If it isn’t found and treated, it can lead to complete vision loss and blindness. Although there is no cure, early treatment can help protect your vision and sometimes stop further damage with medication, laser treatment or surgery.
People who are at higher risk for glaucoma include:
· Anyone over 60 years of age, especially Latinos/Hispanics
· African Americans who are over 40 years of age
· People who have a family history of glaucoma
· People who have diabetes, hypertension or a previous eye injury
What can you do for healthy vision?
· Get regular comprehensive dilated eye exams every one to two years
· Know your family’s eye history
· Wear sunglasses when outside
· Wear protective eyewear
· Maintain a healthy weight
· Eat a healthy diet
· Be physically active
· Control your blood pressure
· Quit smoking
If you are at high risk for glaucoma, please make it a New Year’s resolution to get a dilated eye exam in 2023 by an eye care professional. Protect yourself. Early treatment and diagnosis can save your vision.