Now is the time to learn more about glaucoma and how it can affect your vision. Although glaucoma is not as well known as other eye diseases, such as cataracts or macular degeneration, it still affects millions of people in the United States and causes irreversible blindness. If you want to know what glaucoma does and how you can protect your eyes from this disease, keep reading!
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve. This can lead to vision loss and blindness, although there are often no symptoms until it’s too late. Once glaucoma damages the optic nerve, it can’t be repaired. This is why regular eye exams are so important! If glaucoma has already damaged part of your optic nerves, you might not notice any changes in vision until a lot of damage has been done.
The National Eye Institute projects that by 2030, more than four million people in the United States will have glaucoma. That’s almost a 33% increase from today!
Who is more at risk?
Glaucoma is called the sneak thief of sight since it damages vision without warning. There are glaucoma risk factors, though. One glaucoma risk factor is family history, especially in people who have had glaucoma previously or glaucoma at an early age. People with diabetes are also at higher risk for developing glaucoma than those who don’t have diabetes.
Glaucoma is more common in African Americans and Latinos than Caucasians. In fact, glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. If you’re part of one of these populations, it’s important to be especially vigilant about getting screened for glaucoma on a regular basis.
How do you know if you have glaucoma?
In many cases, there aren’t any symptoms to watch out for until a lot of damage has already been done and your eyesight starts getting worse without explanation so regular screening by an eye doctor is important!
Advanced signs of glaucoma can include:
- Cloudy, yellow vision. This is because glaucoma damages the optic nerve and causes it to swell up. Sometimes people with glaucoma describe this as a cloud or fog that blocks their vision even though they have perfect eyesight.
- Peripheral vision (the area outside the center of sight) begins to blur over time, making straight lines look wavy – especially when both eyes are affected by glaucoma.
- Pain in the eye or in the head
- Seeing halos around lights at night or bright colors like blue as grey.
- If you are experiencing the above symptoms, contact your optometrist immediately.
What can be done to prevent Glaucoma?
- Get regular eye exams to catch glaucoma before it catches you.
- Talk to your eye doctor if you are taking steroid medication. Long-term use of steroids is likely to raise eye pressure and can lead to glaucoma.
- Exercise regularly.
- Protect your eyes from injury and sunlight.
- Monitor your gums. Researches show a link between gum diseases and glaucoma.