It's Glaucoma Awareness Month! January is about more than ringing in the new year. It’s a time to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and treatment of glaucoma, and encourage everyone to take steps to protect their eye health.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damages the optic nerve, which carries information from your eye to your brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to vision loss and even blindness. The most common type of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma, which typically has no symptoms in the early stages and can progress slowly without causing pain. That's why it's often referred to as the "silent thief of sight."
Who is at risk for glaucoma?
Anyone can get glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk than others. Risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Age: People over the age of 60 are more likely to develop glaucoma.
- Family history: If you have a family history of glaucoma, you may be at an increased risk.
- Ethnicity: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
- Medical conditions: People with diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of eye injuries or surgeries are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
The only way to definitively diagnose glaucoma is through a comprehensive eye exam. During an eye exam, your eye doctor will check the pressure in your eye, examine the optic nerve for signs of damage, and test your peripheral (side) vision. Your eye doctor may also use imaging tests, such as ultrasound or MRI, to get a better look at the optic nerve and surrounding tissues.
How is glaucoma treated?
The goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower the pressure in your eye and prevent further damage to the optic nerve. Treatment may include:
- Eye drops: Your eye doctor may prescribe eye drops to help lower the pressure in your eye. These may need to be taken multiple times a day.
- Oral medications: If eye drops aren't enough to lower the pressure in your eye, your doctor may prescribe oral medications to help control the pressure.
- Laser surgery: In some cases, laser surgery may be used to help lower the pressure in your eye.
- Traditional surgery: If other treatments aren't effective, your doctor may recommend a traditional surgery to help lower the pressure in your eye.
What can I do to prevent glaucoma?
What can I do to prevent glaucoma? There is no sure way to prevent glaucoma, but getting regular eye exams can help detect the condition early on. If you are at an increased risk for glaucoma, it's important to see your eye doctor regularly to monitor your eye health. It's also important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to help reduce your risk of developing glaucoma. This includes:
- Eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Exercising regularly.
- Not smoking.
- Wearing protective eyewear when playing sports or engaging in activities that could cause eye injuries.
Support the Glaucoma Awareness Month cause by further researching the disease (and eye health overall), spreading the word to friends and family, and making sure to schedule your regular eye exams.