THE BAD NEWS:
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. To make it worse, researchers estimate that half of glaucoma patients in the U.S. don't realize that they have it because it steals sight little by little a long period of time. Think Peter Gibbons' (Ron Livingston) scheme to electronically steal fractions of pennies over time in the movie Office Space. Common changes like vision loss and increases in eye fluid pressure are subtle and slow, especially in the early stages. What's more, early vision loss doesn't happen in the central vision, where it is most noticeable. The disease takes away side vision at first and usually affects one eye before the other eye. Since most people go about their daily lives with both eyes open, any vision loss in one eye is filled in by the other eye. Patients typically don't notice anything wrong until they've lost a lot of vision. Unfortunately, vision that is lost is gone forever--we can't get it back.
THE GOOD NEWS:
For now, there is no cure for glaucoma BUT early detection and treatment can help prevent blindness. Statistics show that when the disease is caught and treated early enough, most cases don't end in blindness. In fact, in over 90% of cases, if treatment is started early enough, patients can enjoy a lifetime of vision with glaucoma. Those are pretty encouraging numbers. The key, however, is early detection and treatment.
Some risk factors for glaucoma include:
- African-American heritage
- Hispanic heritage
- Asian heritage (increased risk of narrow angle type of glaucoma)
- Greater that 60 years of age
- Family history of glaucoma
- History of eye injury
Some types of medications can also increase the risk of developing the disease so it is important to bring a complete medication list to your next eye appointment.
GET AN EYE EXAM EVERY YEAR
The doctors at Coastal Vision recommend that everyone (children through adults) have a complete eye health exam every year. Regular eye exams screen for early eye health problems like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. Your eye doctor can assess your risk for the disease based on risk factors and their findings during the eye exam. If your eye doctor finds anything suspicious during the eye exam, they may want to order some additional tests to screen for glaucoma. These special tests allow us to detect and treat the disease before it quietly robs sight.
Dr. Abhner Wang
Optometrist/Co-owner Coastal Vision