At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced a headache, blurred vision, or eye redness. Maybe it was from an injury or the symptoms of another illness. However, did you know that these symptoms may also indicate a progressive eye disease? Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve and can slowly lead to blindness. The tricky thing about glaucoma is that noticeable symptoms don’t usually present until vision loss has already occurred. Scheduling a comprehensive eye exam at least once a year with an eye care professional is crucial to catching glaucoma early and before it progresses. While there is no cure for glaucoma, early treatment can halt the progression and protect your vision. Since glaucoma doesn’t usually have obvious signs in the beginning, we’re calling out some potential symptoms to be aware of, as well as how your physician may test you for the condition.
Potential Symptoms of Glaucoma
When it comes to glaucoma symptoms, it’s tough to identify them because there really aren’t any distinct ones to indicate that you are living with this progressive eye condition. In fact, open-angle glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms in its early stage. As the disease progresses, blind spots can begin to develop in the peripheral (side) view. These spots can go undetected until the optic nerve has experienced serious damage, or until they are detected by an eye care specialist through a complete eye exam. Similarly, people at risk for angle-closure glaucoma often do not experience symptoms early on. Once symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma do appear, they come quickly and are more obvious, causing damage fast. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your eye care professional:
- Severe pain in the eyes or forehead
- Redness of the eye
- Decreased vision or blurred vision
- Seeing rainbows or halos around lights
Risk Factors to Watch For
Although there are some symptoms that may indicate you have or are developing glaucoma, there are also risk factors to be aware of. One major risk factor for developing glaucoma is increased intraocular pressure (IOP), which occurs when fluid in the eye – used to transport important nutrients to the lens and cornea – accumulates and cannot drain naturally. Early detection and treatment of high IOP is your best defense against glaucoma. If you experience one or more of the glaucoma risk factors listed below and are over the age of 35, you should visit your eye care professional for a full glaucoma exam. The risk factors include:
- Elevated or sudden considerable changes in intraocular pressure
- Older age
- African American ethnicity
- Hispanic ethnicity
- Asian ethnicity
- Familial History
- Thin corneas
- Blunt eye trauma
- Inflammatory eye conditions
How to Diagnose Glaucoma
So you are experiencing some potential symptoms and/or have a risk factor for glaucoma – now what? Glaucoma can only be diagnosed during an eye examination, which is why it is important to schedule regular check-ups with your eye doctor! A glaucoma exam provides you and your eye care professional with important information regarding the health of your eyes. Nervous? Don’t be! The tests are often part of a routine eye exam and are painless. Head to your next eye exam with some helpful information about what to expect and how to prepare for a discussion with your eye care provider. During the exam, your eye doctor may run a series of tests to determine if you have glaucoma, but it’s also helpful for you to be prepared with information about your eye health. Below is some helpful information to prepare for your eye exam and the conversation with your doctor. Potential Tests
- Visual Field Test: Determines if there is any glaucoma damage, such as vision loss or blind spots in your field of vision.
- Optic Nerve Scan: This allows your eye care professional to see if your optic nerve appears healthy or damaged.
- Eye Pressure Measuring: Measures intraocular pressure.
- Corneal Thickness Measuring: Quickly and painlessly measures the thickness of your cornea (the clear front “window” of your eye).
- Gonioscopy or Ultrasound Biomicroscopy: Enables your eye care professional to see the angle of the structure inside the eye where fluid outflow begins.
- List any symptoms you’ve been having and include the length of time you have been experiencing each.
- List any history you may have with eye problems, such as vision changes, other eye conditions you’ve been diagnosed with, and any eye discomfort. Also, list any eye problems your relatives may have.
- Write down your medical information, including other conditions such as diabetes or vascular issues you may have, and all medications and supplements you’re currently taking. You should also write down any history of eye trauma.
- Write down any questions you may have for your eye care provider. This will also help you make the most of your appointment.
If you’re looking for an expert who is familiar with treating glaucoma and offering the latest treatment options, use our physician locator today!
Glaucoma is Treatable!
Glaucoma can be successfully treated, but early detection is vital, which is why it’s important to identify any symptoms you experience and to know if you are at an increased risk of developing the condition. If diagnosed, determining your best glaucoma treatment option begins by talking to your eye care professional, who can help you get a clear and specific understanding of your glaucoma treatment needs. Together, you’ll be able to come up with a plan to manage your condition. If you have been diagnosed with mild-to-moderate glaucoma, there are a few key treatment options that your eye care professional may recommend – including eye drops, laser options, and Micro-Invasive Glaucoma Surgery. Remember you are not alone during your glaucoma journey! For more information on glaucoma, available treatment options, or to hear some firsthand experiences, visit our website. Also, don’t forget to follow Living with Glaucoma on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. PM-US-0729 Rev 1