Glaucoma Can Silently, Gradually Lead To Blindness

Health Minute

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Glaucoma is a preventable eye disease that shows no signs or symptoms and, if left untreated, may cause loss of peripheral vision and possible blindness.

Glaucoma is caused when fluid builds up and increases pressure in the eye, which damages the optic nerve. It can only be detected with a complete eye exam. This includes dilating the pupils to enable your doctor to observe the optic nerves.

Because glaucoma develops without noticeable symptoms it is known as the “silent thief of sight.”

Treatment for glaucoma, which includes eye drops, laser surgery, and conventional surgery can help to slow down and arrest the progression of the disease if treated early. However, it is estimated that nearly half of Americans with glaucoma do not know they have it because they never have an eye exam.

As you age, your risk for developing glaucoma increases, making it that much more important for older adults to have a yearly eye exam by an eye care doctor, such as an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

An international survey of 4,000 adults revealed that eye exams are often neglected by adults over the age of 40. The survey found that awareness of glaucoma – what it is and who it affects – was extremely low despite the fact that twice as many participants feared going blind compared to developing heart disease or experiencing an early death.

Patient Adherence And Follow-up Visits

There are several forms of glaucoma. The most common is called primary open angle glaucoma. This type of glaucoma develops slowly and is undetectable to a patient until a significant portion of their peripheral vision is lost.

Glaucoma cannot be cured, but you can slow the progression of the disease and manage the loss of peripheral vision by controlling the pressure in the eye. 

Unfortunately, patients' adherence to their doctor’s treatment plan, such as medications and follow-up visits two to three times a year, is low. Since there are no apparent signs, symptoms, or pain involved, patients can become complacent about treatment.

Current research involves finding new treatment options that would increase compliance, including an injection of glaucoma medication every three to four months.

Steps To Take Against Glaucoma

The World Glaucoma Association states that 4.5 million people are blind due to glaucoma, and that figure was expected to increase to 11.2 million by 2020. You can take these simple steps to help ensure you do not become a part of this growing statistic:

Schedule an eye exam. An annual eye exam with an eye care doctor should be part of your wellness routine after age 50. 

Don’t wait for a sign. Glaucoma gives no warning. Do not assume you’re not at risk for glaucoma because you have no pain or symptoms. By the time you do, it will be too late.

Know your risks. Glaucoma does not play favorites when it comes to vision loss. The disease can be hereditary. African-Americans are at greater risk and can experience more devastating results without treatment. Diabetes is also a risk factor for glaucoma.

Commit to compliance. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma or have a strong family history, make it a priority to see an eye care doctor on a regular basis and take your medication as your doctor prescribes. Early treatment and compliance are important to ensure a positive prognosis.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.