January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness, however early detection can often prevent blindness from the disease.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease usually caused by a loss of cells in the retina. In many cases this is due to elevated pressure in the eye. This build-up of pressure causes damage to the optic nerves of the eye.
There are two main types of glaucoma. In a simple classification, we talk about:
Chronic Open Angle Glaucoma
This type of glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms for glaucoma until the disease reaches its advanced stages. At this point you may notice a change in vision or a partial or total loss of peripheral vision.
Regular eye exams are crucial to detecting open angle glaucoma as well as other eye diseases before they can cause permanent eye damage and blindness.
Angle Closure Glaucoma
This type of glaucoma is acute or emergency in nature. The eye is red and painful, and vision becomes blurry. It requires immediate treatment. In many cases an existing feature in the ocular anatomy can be detected during a routine exam, and such an emergency can be prevented.
Who is At Risk for Glaucoma?
Several factors can put people at a higher risk for glaucoma. Some of these factors include:
- Family history
- Nearsighted/myopic patients
- Raynaud's phenomenon
- African ancestry
It should be noted that people without these risk factors can also have glaucoma, but people with any of the above factors are at an even higher risk.
Treatments for Glaucoma
The good news is that if glaucoma is detected early and treated promptly, blindness from the glaucoma can often be prevented. There are several types of treatment for glaucoma including:
- Eye drops to lower the pressure in the eye.
- Laser treatments.
- Surgical procedures.
Advancements in Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) have allowed patients to receive surgical treatment with potentially fewer complications than traditional glaucoma surgeries.
Frequently Asked Questions About Glaucoma
"Am I going to go blind?"
If detected early and treated promptly, blindness from glaucoma can be prevented. "We typically don't lose vision and go blind from glaucoma," says McFarland Clinic ophthalmologist Dr. Nicolas Hamouche, "as long as we diagnose it early enough, as long as we treat it properly, and as long as we routine follow-ups."
"What about my family?
Individuals with a family history of glaucoma are more likely to have glaucoma themselves, so Dr. Hamouche recommends that individuals who are diagnosed with glaucoma should have their immediate family members consider screening for glaucoma as well.
For more information about glaucoma, call or visit your nearest McFarland Eye Center. More information may also be found from these resources: