It’s likely that you’ve heard of glaucoma before – someone you know may be living with it, it’s occasionally mentioned in TV and movies, and celebrities such as U2 lead singer Bono even have it. However, unless you, a family member, or a friend is affected by the condition, you may not be too familiar with it and perhaps are looking for more information.
Whatever your reason for seeking some additional information, you’re in luck! There’s an abundance of knowledge about glaucoma available online or through your eye doctor – including some interesting facts. To help you sort through all the details, we’ve put together an overview of the condition and seven important facts about glaucoma we think you should know.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a progressive, but common eye condition that if left untreated, can eventually lead to blindness. This vision condition is said to affect roughly three million Americans. As the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, glaucoma is a result of increased pressure in the eye due to an imbalance in production and outflow of ocular fluid. But before you start to panic, you should know that there are numerous safe and effective glaucoma treatments, including prescription eye drops, laser treatment, and a tiny implant called the iStent inject® W.
7 Facts About Glaucoma
Now that you know a little bit more about glaucoma, we want to dive into some things that you may not (but should!) know about the condition, including common symptoms, most at-risk populations, how the condition is detected, how to retain your vision with a glaucoma diagnosis, and available treatment options. Here at Living with Glaucoma, we want to provide you with as much information as possible on glaucoma to help you better understand the condition, so keep reading to learn more!
Fact #1 – Glaucoma Can Be Asymptomatic
Typically, symptoms are a tell-tale way for people to identify if they are suffering from a medical condition. Unfortunately, with open-angle glaucoma (the most common type of glaucoma), there are often no early symptoms. For this reason, many people living with the condition are unaware they have it and find it difficult to receive a diagnosis. In fact, many don’t have noticeable symptoms – even if they do have high intraocular pressure – and the condition can worsen over time until vision is permanently lost. Oftentimes, the only way to receive an early diagnosis and get proper treatment is through routine eye exams.
However, if you have open-angle glaucoma and do experience symptoms, they can include blind spots and/or tunnel vision. Those with acute angle-closure glaucoma may experience the following:
- Eye pain
- Severe headache
- Halos surrounding lights
- Nausea and vomiting
- Eye redness
- Blurred vision
If you experience any of these symptoms or suspect that you may have glaucoma, visit your eye doctor as soon as possible. Keeping up with regular eye exams can help to ensure your vision is healthy and any potential issues are caught early.
Fact #2 – Glaucoma Runs in the Family
Open-angle glaucoma is hereditary, which means if an immediate family member has glaucoma, there is a much greater risk of developing the condition than the general population. A family history of glaucoma can increase your risk by four to nine times. You should regularly get checked for the condition if glaucoma runs in your family. However, just because a family member has glaucoma does not necessarily mean you will too.
Not sure if you have a family history of glaucoma? Now would be a good time to find out! Reach out to your loved ones to ask if they know of anyone in your family who has glaucoma. If you’re concerned that you may be at a higher risk because a family member has the condition, check with your doctor to learn more.
Fact #3 – Some Populations Are More At-Risk Than Others
While glaucoma does tend to be genetic, anyone can develop it. However, it is more common in certain populations. It’s important to know if you’re at a higher risk of developing glaucoma so that you can schedule regular eye exams to monitor for any signs of the condition. The groups most at-risk for developing the condition include:
- African American Populations: Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans after cataracts. The likelihood of developing glaucoma is 6-8 times more common in African Americans than in Caucasians.
- People Over Age 60: If you are over the age of 60, glaucoma is much more common. In fact, those within this age bracket are six times more likely to develop the condition.
- Hispanic Groups Over Age 60: Hispanic groups run a higher risk of getting glaucoma, while the risk increases even higher in those over the age of 60.
- Asian Populations: Asian populations are at an elevated risk of developing angle-closure glaucoma. More specifically, people of Japanese descent have a higher risk of having normal-tension glaucoma.
- Steroid Users: Certain evidence has linked steroid use to glaucoma. Adults who use a steroid inhaler to help control their asthma, for example, should connect with their doctor to have their eye pressure checked regularly.
- Those with an Eye Injury: Eye injuries can cause secondary open-angle glaucoma, either immediately following eye trauma or even years later. Blunt injuries that bruise the eye or certain injuries that penetrate the eye may cause damage to the eye’s drainage system, potentially resulting in traumatic glaucoma. The most common cause of eye-injury-induced glaucoma is a sports-related injury, such as while boxing or playing baseball.
Other risk factors for glaucoma can include hypertension and nearsightedness. If you fall into any of these aforementioned populations, you should talk to your eye doctor about your risk for glaucoma.
Fact #4 – Glaucoma Damages the Optic Nerve
Increased pressure in the eye from glaucoma damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. As the optic nerve deteriorates, you may notice blind spots in your vision. Unfortunately, optic nerve damage is permanent. If you want to learn more on this, during World Glaucoma Week 2021, Dr. Steven Sarkisian, CEO of Oklahoma Eye Surgeons, spoke with KFOR-TV to discuss how glaucoma affects the optic nerve. You can watch the full segment below.
Fact #5 – Routine Eye Appointments Are Key for Glaucoma Detection
Since there are often no early symptoms of glaucoma, people must keep up routine eye appointments. Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease, so the longer it’s left untreated, the greater the possibility of visual impairment. Once vision is lost due to glaucoma, it cannot be regained. To diagnose glaucoma, you should receive regular dilated eye exams. Not only can these exams help detect glaucoma in the early stages, but they can also help to prevent significant damage from occurring.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends getting a comprehensive eye exam at the following intervals, depending on your age group:
- Every five to 10 years if you are under the age of 40
- Every two to four years if you are between the ages of 40 and 54
- Every one to three years if you are between the ages of 55 and 64
- Every one to two years if you are over the age of 65
However, if you are at higher risk for glaucoma or other vision-related conditions, you may need more frequent screening. Medical plans typically provide insurance coverage for a standard vision exam every two years, so don’t hesitate to make an appointment if you think something is off with your vision. Talk to your doctor about what is the right screening schedule for you.
Fact #6 – Slowing Glaucoma Progression is Possible
You might feel concerned if you have received a glaucoma diagnosis, and that’s normal. However, your newfound diagnosis doesn’t automatically mean you will lose vision.
Early detection is key to slowing the progression of glaucoma. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you will be able to seek treatment, helping you to avoid losing any additional vision. It may reassure you to hear from others in the Living with Glaucoma community on how they were able to stay on top of their condition and seek treatment as soon as possible.
Fact #7 – Glaucoma is Treatable!
Although glaucoma is a progressive condition, it is treatable! Once glaucoma is detected, understand your treatment options to prevent any further vision loss. There’s no cure for glaucoma, but there are excellent treatments available, including:
- iStent inject® W: The iStent inject® W is one of the smallest medical devices known to be implanted in the human body and can help reduce pressure in the eye, potentially reducing or eliminating the need for medication, such as daily eye drops at the discretion of a physician. This treatment is done in conjunction with cataract surgery.
- Prescription Eye Drops: Prescription eye drops, which are the most common glaucoma treatment, help lower the pressure in your eye and prevent damage to your optic nerve.
- Laser Treatment: Sometimes, your doctor will use a laser to help drain fluid out of the eye. This procedure, which can be done at a doctor’s office, is aimed at helping to lower pressure in the eye.
Don’t Let Glaucoma Hold You Back!
If you are at a high risk of developing glaucoma, or you suspect you may have symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible. Even if you are found to have no signs of glaucoma, it is still necessary to keep up with regular eye exams, as the condition could develop down the line. If you do have glaucoma, remember that it is treatable, as long as you seek treatment immediately.
If you’re currently looking into treatment for glaucoma, consider the iStent inject® W! Leading ophthalmologists across the country offer iStent technology, including the most recently FDA-approved iStent inject® W for the treatment of mild-to-moderate open-angle glaucoma during cataract surgery. Find out if you are a candidate for iStent inject® W by talking with a physician in your area today. You can also visit our website to learn more.
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