According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world today. In the United States alone, this disease affects approximately 2.2 million people, but only half actually know they have this condition.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name for several eye diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve, which acts as a messenger for information between the eye and the brain, is in the back of the eye. When the nerve is damaged, a loss of vision is likely to occur.
Initially, people with glaucoma will lose their peripheral vision (i.e. side vision). If the disease remains untreated, vision loss will likely get worse. This can lead to total blindness over time.
Glaucoma often presents with no symptoms to warn you. Many doctors, due to this lack of physical symptoms, have called glaucoma "the silent thief of sight”. Therefore, detecting and treating glaucoma early is important to prevent blindness. Be sure to know your risk factors to determine if a South Jersey Eye Physicians doctor should examine you.
- Age: You're at higher risk of glaucoma if you're older than 40.
- Ethnic Background: Certain ethnicities, such as African-Americans, are at risk of developing glaucoma at a younger age and are more likely to experience permanent blindness as a result.
- Family History: Glaucoma may have a genetic link; therefore, if you have a family history of glaucoma, you are at a greater risk of developing the condition.
- Medical Conditions: Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and hypothyroidism are several conditions that may increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
- Other Eye Conditions: Eye tumors, eye inflammation, lens dislocation and retinal detachment could increase the risk of glaucoma. Certain types of eye surgery and being nearsighted or farsighted may also increase your risk.
- Injury: Increased eye pressure is sometimes a result of severe eye injuries; therefore, trauma can increase the risk of glaucoma.
- Long-term Corticosteroid Use: Corticosteroid medications (e.g. some eye drops) over a long period of time may increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
Importance of annual vision screenings
Do not wait for symptoms to occur prior to seeing an eye doctor. Glaucoma can affect people at any age with virtually no symptoms at all. It can lead to severe vision impairment and even blindness. The experts at South Jersey Eye Physicians recommend annual vision screenings, especially if you are over the age of 40. Even if your vision is clear, detecting glaucoma in its earliest stage will prove to be the best way to preserve and protect your vision.
When glaucoma is left untreated, progressive vision loss will occur. Here are the typical stages of vision loss:
- Blind spots in your peripheral vision
- Tunnel vision
- Total blindness
South Jersey Eye Physicians offers state-of-the-art detection & management of glaucoma and a variety of treatments that slow its progression. Although treatment will not be able to bring back vision that has already been lost due to glaucoma, it can keep your vision from getting worse. Lowering the pressure in the eyes to prevent additional damage to the optic nerve is the goal of glaucoma treatment.
South Jersey Eye Physicians usually begins treatment with drops that lower the fluid production in the eye. Although this is a first treatment option, we do not recommend it for patients with lung or heart disease. Other cases may require surgical treatment using selective lasers or SLT. The laser light is utilized to improve the flow of fluid in the eye and reduce pressure. Our ophthalmologists are trained experts in these advanced procedures.
How to Get More Information
To learn more about glaucoma detection and treatment, please schedule an appointment online or call to schedule your glaucoma screening today at 1-800-380-0111.