Glaucoma is serious, so know the risks and symptoms

Glaucoma affects over 2.7 million Americans over the age of 40, and is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, if left untreated. However, despite its high presence, many people don’t even know what glaucoma is.

According to a Prevent Blindness America Survey, only 20 percent of people knew exactly what glaucoma was, 50 percent had heard of it but weren’t sure what it was, and 30 percent had never even heard the term. Therefore, it is important to be educated on this disease and how to spot the symptoms, so that everyone can get proper treatment for glaucoma and prevent blindness.

Glaucoma is a condition that damages the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. Many studies have concluded that the build-up of increased eye pressure is the main reason for the damage, and it can worse over time. Without proper treatment, glaucoma can cause permanent total blindness within a few years.

There are many risk factors and causes of glaucoma, and it is important that you visit the doctor regularly if you are in a risk category. Since glaucoma occurs over time, age is a significant risk factor. If you’re over the age of 40 and have a family history of the condition, you should have a complete eye exam once every one or two years. If you have other health issues such as diabetes or take steroid medications, you should visit the eye doctor more frequently. Also, people of African-American, Irish, Japanese, Hispanic, Russian, or Scandinavian descent are at an increased risk for glaucoma.

Glaucoma tends to go undetected because most people experience zero or very few early symptoms of the condition. Usually the first sign of glaucoma is the loss of side vision. However, this can go undetected until later into the disease’s course. Other small indicators include high eye pressure, eye pain, blurred vision, headaches, or seeing halos around lights. If you start to experience any of these symptoms, it is important that you visit an eye doctor immediately.

After eye tests and pupil dilation, doctors will be able to determine if glaucoma is present. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, the doctor will usually prescribe you with eye drops or suggest microsurgery or laser surgery. Although vision loss at this point can’t be restored, many patients are able to maintain their current level of vision, if they follow their doctor’s treatment instructions.

Glaucoma is a serious disease that can lead to permanent vision loss. Therefore, it is important that you understand the risks, become aware of the symptoms, and get treatment if necessary. You only have one set of eyes, so you need to protect them as best you can.

Lucy Wyndham, who wrote this article, is a freelance writer and editor.