Sight is one of the most treasured of the five senses. After all, your eyes allow you to see and experience the world. Glaucoma is a threat to your eyesight. If not detected early, it can permanently damage your eyes and in severe cases, lead to blindness.
Glaucoma is not just one eye disease, but a group of eye conditions resulting in optic nerve damage. Abnormally high pressure inside your eye usually, but not always, causes this damage. The most common type of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, has no noticeable signs or symptoms except gradual vision loss. Without treatment, people with open-angle glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision. As glaucoma remains untreated, people may miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead (central) vision may decrease until no vision remains.
Glaucoma risk factors include age, ethnicity, and severe eye injuries. Age wise, people over the age of 60 have an elevated risk. African Americans have a much higher risk; glaucoma often occurs at a much younger age for this demographic. Those of Asian and Japanese descent are also at a higher risk for glaucoma.
If you have a family history of glaucoma, your risk for developing the disease is also at an increased level. People with medical conditions such as diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism also face a higher risk of glaucoma. Additionally, those that have sustained severe eye injuries like eye tumors, retinal detachment, eye inflammation, lens dislocation, and certain types of eye surgery are more at risk of developing glaucoma.
Early detection of glaucoma is crucial to prevent permanent damage. As a general rule, you should have a comprehensive eye exam every three to five years after age 40 and every year after 60. You may need more frequent screening if you are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma.
In addition to having frequent screenings, maintaining a healthy diet and staying physically active can help reduce your risks of glaucoma. Although these actions will not prevent glaucoma, they can help control weight and blood pressure, preventing diabetes and high blood pressure — two risk factors of glaucoma. Another step in glaucoma prevention is wearing eye protection to protect your eyes and prevent serious eye injuries, as it may also help lower your glaucoma risk. Eye protection should be worn when using power tools and playing sports (don’t forget about sunglasses and a hat to protect your eyes from the damaging UV rays of the sun).
By taking these steps to reduce your risk of developing glaucoma, you’re taking steps to protect your vision. Start now by making an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam. Call us at (309) 243-2400.