Glaucoma, also called “the sneak thief of sight,” currently affects more than 3 million people in the United States and 60 million people worldwide. It is the leading cause of irreversible blindness, which is why the month of January is dedicated to its awareness.
Incredibly, half of the population affected by glaucoma is not even aware they have it, because a person can lose up to 40% of his or her vision without even noticing. While there is no cure for this disease, medication and surgery can slow its development or prevent further vision loss, so it is essential to get regular eye examinations.
So what is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually impair vision without warning. The loss of vision is caused by damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. It is often linked to a buildup of pressure inside one’s eye. The most common forms of Glaucoma primarily affect the middle-aged and elderly, but people of all ages can be affected.
The types of Glaucoma
There are two main types of Glaucoma: open-angle and angle-closure.
Open-Angle Glaucoma: This is the most common form and accounts for at least 90% of all cases. Open-angle Glaucoma has a wide angle between the iris and cornea, and is caused by the slow clogging of the drainage canals, which causes increased eye pressure. This disease develops slowly and is lifelong, and it has symptoms and causes damage that go unnoticed.
Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This is a less common form, and is caused by blocked drainage canals, resulting in a sudden rise in intraocular pressure. The angle between the iris and cornea is closed or more narrow with this condition. Contrary to Open-Angle Glaucoma, Angle-Closure Glaucoma develops very quickly and its symptoms are usually very noticeable. This type demands immediate medical attention.
While Glaucoma can affect people of all demographics, those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent; people over 60 years old; family members of those already diagnosed; diabetics; and people who are severely nearsighted.
The importance of regular eye exams
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world (the first leading cause is cataracts, except for in developed countries). 90% of all Glaucoma cases present virtually no symptoms, which makes annual eye exams extremely important. If you are diagnosed with Glaucoma during your annual eye exam, treatment can begin immediately, thus slowing or altogether stopping the progression of the disease. If you wait until symptoms are noticed to have your eyes checked, it may be too late.
Schedule an appointment online or call 615-893-8847 to schedule an eye exam at Coley & Coley Family Eyecare.
(Information derived from the Glaucoma Research Foundation)