January 2018 Health Education Ministry Emphasis - Glaucoma Awareness Month: Make a Resolution for Healthy Vision
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. The most common form is primary open-angle glaucoma, which is one of the main causes of blindness in the United States.
How does glaucoma cause vision loss?
With glaucoma, the fluid within the eye drains too slowly, and, as the fluid builds up, the pressure inside the eye rises to a level that may damage the optic nerve. When the optic nerve is damaged, peripheral (or side) vision is affected, narrowing the field of vision. Left untreated, total vision loss can occur.
What are the symptoms?
In the early stages of primary open-angle glaucoma, there are no symptoms. However, only 8 percent of people in the United States are aware of this fact. It’s important for people to know that glaucoma can be detected early before noticeable vision loss occurs, and that vision that is lost cannot be restored. Although glaucoma cannot be cured, it can usually be controlled. Vision loss can be prevented or minimized with early detection, treatment, and appropriate follow-up.
What are the numbers?
Almost 3 million people ages 40 and older have glaucoma, yet only half know they have it. Even more alarming is that the number of people with glaucoma is projected to increase in the next few decades to more than 4 million by 2030 and more than 6 million by 2050.
Who is at higher risk?
Anyone can get glaucoma, but some people are at higher risk. Those at higher risk for glaucoma include:
- African Americans over 40—It is still unknown why this specific population develops glaucoma earlier than others and is more likely to experience vision loss from it, so it is very important to reach them early.
- Everyone over 60, especially Hispanics/Latinos.
- People with a family history of the disease—If someone’s close family members had glaucoma, he or she is more likely to develop the disease.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the optic nerve in the eye. The optic nerve is the part of the eye that sends electrical impulses for sight to the brain. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss or blindness.
What causes glaucoma?
Clear fluid flows in and out of a small space at the front of the eye and keeps the tissues in the eye healthy. If this fluid drains too slowly, it puts pressure on the optic nerve and can cause glaucoma.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Often, there are no symptoms at first. Vision stays normal and there is no pain. But as the disease gets worse, side vision may begin to fail. Objects straight ahead may be clear, but objects to the side may not be seen. Over time, with no treatment, people with glaucoma may not be able to see objects straight ahead.
Who is at higher risk for glaucoma?
Anyone can get glaucoma, but people at higher risk for glaucoma are:
- African Americans age 40 and older
- All adults age 60 and older, especially Hispanics/Latinos
- Those who have family members with glaucoma
Other factors that can increase the risk of glaucoma include:
- Previous eye injury
How is glaucoma detected?
An eye care professional can determine whether a person has glaucoma through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. During this exam, drops are put into the eyes to enlarge the pupils. The eye care professional is then able to see more of the inside of the eye to check for signs of damage to the optic nerve. A dilated eye exam is important because screening for eye pressure alone is not enough to detect glaucoma.