Glaucoma is one of the most common eye diseases, and in the early stages, most people don’t experience any noticeable symptoms. In the U.S., 3 million people are estimated to have glaucoma—but only about half of those individuals know they have the condition. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with glaucoma, here’s what you need to know about the disease and the eye care that’s used to treat it.
Frequently Asked Questions About Glaucoma
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an umbrella term used to describe conditions that are related to fluid and pressure buildup in the eyes. As fluid accumulates beyond normal levels, it places stress on the optic nerve. If the optic nerve is damaged, the patient can experience permanent vision loss. If you have glaucoma or are predisposed to the disease, your doctor will evaluate your peripheral vision using visual field tests. These tests are typically scheduled once or twice a year so the doctor will be able to address any changes in your vision before they become noticeable.
What causes glaucoma?
While glaucoma has no definitive cause, several issues have been linked to its onset. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to high eye pressure, and diabetes, high blood pressure, and related conditions may contribute to the likelihood of developing glaucoma. Extreme near- or far-sightedness can be a contributing factor, as well as long-term eye drop use. Patients who are over the age of 60 or are Black, Asian, or Hispanic may also be more likely to develop it.
What are the symptoms?
Glaucoma is treatable, and if it’s diagnosed in the early stages, the condition can usually be controlled with medication. Early symptoms include headache and eye pain, blurred vision, halos appearing around lights, and eye redness. With open-angle glaucoma, you may notice blind spots in your peripheral vision in each eye or may develop tunnel vision. Never wait to see an eye care professional if you experience these symptoms.
In most cases, however, glaucoma doesn’t cause discernible symptoms. Vision changes can occur gradually, which means you might not notice reduced peripheral vision. To avoid damage to the optic nerve, you need to see a doctor regularly for eye care treatment and testing; the screening schedule will vary depending on the severity of your condition and how well it’s managed.
How do I prevent damage to the optic nerve?
You need to maintain your overall health to benefit your eyes. Eat foods that are high in antioxidants, and exercise 3–5 times a week to improve circulation and manage your blood pressure. You should also avoid smoking because nicotine can increase inflammation and cause high blood pressure. Glaucoma can be exasperated by injuries, so if you participate in sports, woodworking, or any other activity that exposes your eyes to debris or trauma, wear protective glasses or goggles. Patients with glaucoma may experience light sensitivity, so you should also wear sunglasses outside year-round.
The most important preventative action you can take is to follow your doctor’s treatment plan. If you are prescribed medications, take them as directed. Patients with glaucoma often use eye drops multiple times a day, so if you’re not consistent about following your treatment schedule, be honest with your doctor—they may be able to offer alternative treatment options, such as an oral medication or surgery.
If you need to schedule an eye exam to screen for glaucoma or monitor your vision, turn to Virginia Ramsey Lind, OD in Fairbanks, AK. Dr. Lind brings over 30 years of experience to her practice and is proud to treat a wide variety of conditions, including glaucoma. She and her eye care staff take a personalized treatment approach to each patient and will work with you to ensure you preserve your vision as much as possible. Call (907) 456-8028 to schedule an eye exam and visit her website to learn more about her services.