Glaucoma is a common eye condition that occurs when the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain and is responsible for transmitting messages between the two that allows us to see, becomes damaged. Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States, and in the rest of the world. Estimates suggest that more than 3 million Americans are living with glaucoma.
There are several different things that can cause glaucoma to develop. In most instances, the condition arises because of the inability of the eye to maintain a harmonious balance between the amount of natural lubrication that the eye produces, and its ability to drain it away. This tends to lead to a build-up of pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure) and when the pressure rises to dangerously high levels, it causes damage to the optic nerve.
It isn’t always clear why some people experience high intraocular pressure and develop glaucoma. However, there are some factors that make experiencing the condition more likely. These include:
Getting older. The older you are, the more likely you are to develop glaucoma.
Having a family history of glaucoma.
Being of African, Caribbean or Asian descent.
Experiencing other medical conditions that affect your eyes, including myopia, hyperopia, and diabetes/diabetic retinopathy.
Glaucoma can be difficult to detect, and this is because in most cases, the condition develops slowly over many years. The edges of your vision are affected first, making patients even less likely to recognize that they are experiencing glaucoma. Other signs to be aware of include blurred vision and rainbow halos around bright lights.
In rare cases, glaucoma may come on very suddenly. If this happens, you must see your eye doctor as soon as you can. Signs of sudden onset glaucoma include intense eye pain, nausea/vomiting, headache, blurred vision, painful eyes, and visual disturbances.
Currently, the best way to prevent damage to your vision caused by glaucoma is to attend regular eye exams. These appointments provide your eye doctor with an opportunity to assess the health of your eyes and your vision, facilitating the early detection of glaucoma and any other eye diseases which you may be at risk of developing.
Although there are many different assessments carried out in a regular eye exam, there are a few that are particularly indicative of problems that could lead to glaucoma. These include:
Intraocular pressure testing. This is where a special instrument is used to measure the amount of pressure inside your eye. The test is non-invasive though some people can find it a little uncomfortable. However, it only takes a few seconds to perform.
Visual field test. This is to check to see how good your peripheral vision is and is important since glaucoma tends to affect the very edges of our vision first.
Optic nerve assessment. This test is carried out using eye drops and a slit lamp, which is a microscope with a bright light, and these enable your eye doctor to visualize your optic nerve to check that it looks healthy and there are no abnormalities.
Your eye doctor will likely automatically perform checks to assess for your risk of glaucoma at every comprehensive eye exam that you attend. However, if you aren’t already visiting your eye doctor regularly, here is the sort of schedule for glaucoma testing that you should be adhering to:
Under the age of 40: every two to four years
From age 40 – 5: every one to three years
From age 55 – 64: every one to two years
Age 65 and above: every six to twelve months
If you would like more information about glaucoma and glaucoma prevention, please contact Shalimar Eye Care in Shalimar, FL where our team would be happy to help.