Did You Know?
- Glaucoma can cause blindness! Glaucoma rates in the U.S. are 2.1% in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) for the overall population, but rise rapidly over age 60.1,3
- Glaucoma can strike anyone! But some people are at higher risk - older adults, African-Americans and Hispanics, diabetics, and people with a family history. 1,3
- Glaucoma can be silent! Many of the 3.5 million Americans that have glaucoma are unaware since visual loss does not happen until the disease is advanced. 2
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause deterioration in the optic nerve or specific changes in the visual field. The eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time causing an increase in internal eye pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve. The most common form of glaucoma is called open-angle glaucoma because the wide angle in the eye where the iris meets the cornea remains normal.
What Are the Signs?
There are typically no early warning signs or symptoms of open-angle glaucoma. If untreated, vision loss will usually occur in stages:
- Blind spots in your peripheral vision (hazardous for activities such as driving)
- Complete loss of peripheral vision resulting in “tunnel vision”
- Deteriorating central vision (loss of sharpness, making reading and daily activities hard)
- Total blindness (vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be restored)
How Is It Treated?
Glaucoma is treated with eye drops, oral medicine, laser treatment or surgery (or a combination of treatments) to reduce pressure in the eye and prevent permanent vision loss.
What Can I Do?
Lower Your Risk
Glaucoma is a leading cause of preventable blindness. In the next 25 years nearly 6 million Americans will develop the glaucoma. 2,3 There’s no way to prevent glaucoma but in most cases, blindness is preventable!
Early detection, through regular and complete eye exams, is the key to protecting your vision from damage caused by glaucoma. If you’re at higher risk, you should get a comprehensive dilated eye exam every 1 to 2 years.
Some of the most important tests your doctor will do include:
- Ophthalmoscopy to examine your optic nerve. Eye drops are used to dilate the pupil so that shape and color of the optic nerve can be visualized.
- Tonometry is a device to measure the pressure within your eye. Eye drops are used to numb the eye, and a small amount of pressure is applied to the eye by a tiny device or by a warm puff of air.
- Visual Acuity and a visual field test will be done to test your side vision.
- Visit the National Eye Institutes glaucoma portal.
- Visit the Glaucoma Research Foundation website.
1. Dougherty et al. Published Examination-based Prevalence of Major Eye Disorders, NORC and Vision Eye Health, 2018. 2. Making Eye Health a Population Health Imperative: Vision for Tomorrow. National Academies Press. 2016; 3. Vision & Eye Health Surveillance System (VEHSS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.