Chances are, you’ve heard of glaucoma—maybe someone in your family had it, or you’ve heard that dogs and cats can get it as well. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, a perfect time to get the facts about glaucoma. So, let’s chat and chew about what glaucoma is and how it affects vision.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes vision loss and can cause blindness. Glaucoma is hazardous because the most common type—called “open-angle” glaucoma—does not typically have symptoms at first.
What causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused when the fluid inside your eye—called aqueous humor—does not drain properly. The pressure inside your eye builds up as the fluid does, which damages the optic nerve, causing vision loss and eventually blindness. However, it is possible to have glaucoma with normal eye pressure as well. This is referred to as normal-tension glaucoma, which could happen if the optic nerve is fragile or there is poor blood flow to the nerve.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
While both open-angle and normal-tension glaucoma do not usually cause symptoms. It’s possible you might not even realize you have glaucoma until you lose your vision—hence the reason why glaucoma is often referred to as the ‘silent thief of sight’. Vision loss from glaucoma can make things look blurry around the edges.
“Angle-closure” or “narrow-angle” glaucoma can cause sudden symptoms, including:
- Severe eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Halos around lights
- Vision loss, including sudden loss of side (peripheral) vision
When should you get tested for glaucoma?
If you are 40 or older, you need regular general eye exams, including glaucoma testing. This is important because most glaucoma causes no symptoms in the early stages. Without regular eye exams, you could lose vision to glaucoma before you know you have it.
How is glaucoma treated?
The main treatments for glaucoma include:
- Prescription eye drops– These contain medicines to reduce the amount of fluid your eye produces, increase fluid drainage, and relieve pressure inside the eye.
- Surgery – Laser or traditional surgery can help fluid drain from the eye.
Can glaucoma be prevented?
Regular eye exams can help detect glaucoma early-on, which is when treatment has the best chance of preventing vision loss.
Even simple lifestyle changes can help decrease your chances of glaucoma. Take walks and exercise regularly and eat healthy foods—your overall health is just as important as taking care of your eyes. See your eye doctor for check-ups and follow any recommended course of treatment. Don’t let glaucoma steal your sight – live each day with a clear vision!
As a friendly reminder, all Compass Rose Health Plan members have access to a FREE Dental and Vision Discount Program through our partnership with Careington. Members can access discounts on vision needs, such as eye exams, eye glasses, Lasik and more! Visit www.compassrosebenefits.com/Careington for more information.