While most people have heard of glaucoma, many aren’t aware of how and why it can lead to vision loss and blindness, and why or how regular eye exams can help safeguard their vision. To get a better understanding, check out these 5 important facts.
Glaucoma Causes Permanent Vision Loss
Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness, affecting more than 1 in 50 adults. Nowadays, more than 80 million people around the world have glaucoma, with the number is expected to reach a staggering 111 million by 2040!
Vision loss is caused by abnormally high pressure within the eye which permanently damages the optic nerve that delivers the eye’s messages to the brain.
The rise in eye pressure results from the buildup of fluid in the eye that does not drain effectively out of the eye.
Though it’s possible to manage glaucoma symptoms, vision loss can’t be reversed once it’s occurred. That's why it’s crucial to catch this serious eye condition in its early stages.
Half the People With Glaucoma Don’t Know They Have It
Yes, you read that correctly. One of the most worrying things about glaucoma is that half the people with this condition don’t even know they have it! The most common type — primary open-angle glaucoma — has no obvious symptoms in its early stages. It's no wonder glaucoma is called the ‘Thief of Sight.’
The best way to avoid any vision loss from glaucoma is to have regular eye exams to detect the condition as soon as possible.
Some Are More At Risk for Glaucoma Than Others
The following are risk factors for glaucoma:
- Being 60 or older
- A family history – particularly of open-angle glaucoma
- African, Asian or Hispanic descent
- High blood pressure
- Underactive Thyroid
Glaucoma Can Be Treated, Not Cured
There is no cure for glaucoma and vision that has already been lost to the condition can’t be restored. However, glaucoma can be treated, and the progression of the disease can be stopped or slowed.
Common treatments for glaucoma include:
- Prescription eye drops that can lower pressure inside the eye
- Oral medications, such as carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
- Laser therapy, such as SLT or trabeculoplasty, is used to open up channels to improve the drainage of fluid from the eye
- Eye surgery or trabeculectomy – surgical removal of obstructions in the eye’s drainage system
- Trabecular stent bypass – a stent is placed in the eye to make drainage easier
Only an Eye Exam Can Diagnose Glaucoma
As mentioned above, regular eye exams are essential to detect glaucoma, especially in the early stages before permanent vision loss has occurred. Your eye doctor may use several types of tests to detect glaucoma:
- Tonometry – measurement of eye pressure
- Visual field – tests for peripheral vision loss
- Gonioscopy – determines if the drainage system is open.
- Corneal thickness (pachymetry) – the thickness of the cornea can affect the eye pressure measurements
- Optic Nerve Exam – detection of any nerve damage using digital imaging
Glaucoma is yet another good reason to get your eyes tested regularly, especially if you’re over 60. To check the health of your eyes, schedule a comprehensive eye exam at Vision Source Specialists today.
Our practice serves patients from Rapid City, Philip, Spearfish, and Gillette, South Dakota and surrounding communities.
Q: How much time does it take for glaucoma to cause blindness?
- A: In most cases of open-angle glaucoma, it can take several years from the onset of the disease before significant vision loss occurs. However, in the case of closed-angle glaucoma, where the eye pressure rises suddenly, it can immediately cause severe vision loss. The speed of the onset of glaucoma depends on the type of glaucoma and eye pressure levels. The higher the pressure, the faster glaucoma can drive vision loss.
Q: How many people go blind from glaucoma?
- A: Overall, the incidence of blindness in at least one eye from glaucoma is 26.5% after 10 years, and 38.1% after 20 years. This means that without effective treatment the chance of going blind in one eye is more than 1 in 4 in just 10 years.