Here’s the scary thing about glaucoma. You might not know you have it until you’ve lost a lot of your peripheral vision, and maybe even some of your central vision. “Most people with glaucoma are completely asymptomatic until they reach the late stages of the disease,” said Jillian Colson, MD, a comprehensive ophthalmologist at Banner – University Medicine Ophthalmology Clinic in Tucson, AZ.
Here’s what you need to know about this dangerous eye condition.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name for a group of conditions that damage the optic nerve and can cause irreversible vision loss. It’s typically caused when the pressure inside of the eye gets high. However, Dr. Colson points out that some people have damage from glaucoma even with normal eye pressures.
Along with high eye pressure, you’re also at risk for glaucoma as you get older, if you have a family history of glaucoma, use steroids or have experienced eye trauma, such as injury or severe infection.
Even children can develop glaucoma, but it’s more common in adults.
How do I know if I have glaucoma?
Some types of glaucoma, such as narrow-angle glaucoma, have symptoms. In that case, you might notice severe eye pain, blurry vision, and nausea or vomiting. But in most cases, you won’t notice any symptoms. That’s why screening for glaucoma is critical.
“A complete eye exam by an ophthalmologist can detect risk factors or early signs of glaucoma,” Dr. Colson said.
In the past, when you’ve had your eyes examined, you probably remember that test where a puff of air hits your eye. It might startle you, but it’s not painful. That test is called tonometry, a test that measure the pressure inside your eyes, and it’s part of the screening tests for glaucoma. If you’re at high risk for glaucoma, your provider may also check for changes in your peripheral vision and perform nerve scans.
How can glaucoma be treated?
It’s important to treat glaucoma so you can protect your vision. And there are a lot of treatment options for glaucoma you can try. “Most treatments lower the eye pressure to slow the disease’s progression,” Dr. Colson said. Depending on the type of glaucoma you have and how advanced it is, your doctor might also recommend:
- Prescription eye drops—there are different types you can try
- Laser procedures
The bottom line
Even if you’re not noticing any problems with your vision or your eyes, it’s important to have your eyes examined regularly. “Early detection is extremely important because vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible,” Dr. Colson said. “It’s especially important for you to have a comprehensive eye exam if you have risk factors for glaucoma.”
It’s important to take care of your eyes and protect your sight. An ophthalmologist can check for glaucoma and other eye disorders and vision problems. To find an opthalmologist near you, visit bannerhealth.com.
To learn more about ways you can keep your eyes healthy, check out these articles: