January is glaucoma awareness month. Of the big three eye diseases (cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration), glaucoma is the most important to catch early because it can cause irreversible vision loss and even blindness if not treated appropriately. It is one of the leading causes of loss of vision in our country and worldwide.
With glaucoma, elevated eye pressure causes damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries the signal from the eye to the brain. This causes progressive loss of peripheral (side) vision, and eventually central vision loss. There are no early warning signs or symptoms with glaucoma. However, you can lose a significant portion of your vision without being aware, because it happens so slowly.
There are many forms of glaucoma, but the most common, Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, occurs more commonly as people age, usually between the ages of 60-85. Another type of glaucoma, Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma, is more common in people who are farsighted as they develop cataracts, and can cause sudden loss of vision and pain if not prevented.
Glaucoma can usually be treated with eye drops or laser/surgical procedures to prevent further vision loss. Thus, it is very important to have an eye exam every 1-2 years to screen for glaucoma and other eye diseases as you age.
For more information about glaucoma, please contact our office, check out our glaucoma information, or review the information available at the American Academy of Ophthalmology.