The Sneak Thief of Sight. The Silent Thief. No matter which nickname is used to describe Glaucoma, the message is clear: it will occur without warning and gradually rob you of your vision. More than 3 million Americans suffer from Glaucoma, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, and only half of those afflicted realize they have it.
“There are no Glaucoma warning symptoms or red flags before it’s too late, and worse, there is currently no cure, but there are effective treatments” explains Dr. Vivienne Velasco of iFocus Vision Center. “This is why a yearly comprehensive eye exam is so important.”
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by a buildup of fluid pressure within your eye, which causes damage to the optic nerve and interferes with the way images are transmitted to your brain. As your condition worsens, you will begin to lose peripheral vision, impacting everything from everyday activities to your ability to drive. Without intervention, you will eventually lose your central vision, and permanent blindness is possible.
Types of Glaucoma
In order to determine an effective treatment, Dr. Velasco must first determine which type of the disease is present.
Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
The most common type, Open Angle Glaucoma, develops gradually and painlessly, so you don’t notice that it’s slowly taking your sight. Your first indication that there is anything wrong with your eyes might only be after some considerable vision loss. Open Angle primarily strikes people over the age of 60, although young people can also develop the condition.
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma results from a sudden blockage of the drainage channels within your eye, causes a rapid build-up of internal fluid pressure and blurred vision, as well as the appearance of colored rings around lights, and, sometimes, extreme pain or redness in the eyes.
Glaucoma Risk Factors to Know
Dr. Velasco can diagnose Glaucoma during a comprehensive eye exam, but it’s paramount that you know your risk factors before making an appointment, so you can relay all the necessary information during your visit.
As mentioned above, if you are 60 years old or older, you have a higher your risk of developing the disease. African-Americans, however, are at risk beginning at age 40.
Race plays a big factor in the progression of the disease. People of African heritage are at higher risk of developing Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, while people of Asian heritage are more likely to develop the Acute Angle Closure type.
Family Eye History
Many eye conditions are inherited, including Glaucoma, Myopia (nearsightedness), astigmatism, cataract,strabismus, and macular degeneration. It is important to know your family’s health history so that Dr. Velasco can properly diagnose your condition.
Factors such as diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease have been linked to increased risk of Glaucoma. Dr. Velasco also warns that patients who are nearsighted are at higher risk.
While doctors have yet to find a cure for the disease, research indicates there are outside forces that put your vision at risk. A 2019 study found living in a region with high air pollution increases your risk of developing Glaucoma, because the pollutants can kill retinal cells within the eye. Smoking has also been linked to Glaucoma, and research has found that excessive amounts of caffeine can also increase your risk factor.
Glaucoma can be treated with prescription eye drops and other medications, and in some cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the eyes. Because vision that is lost cannot be restored, the goal of treatment is to control the slow the progression of the disease and reduce damage to the eye.
Have questions about Glaucoma? To schedule an appointment with Dr. Velasco, contact iFocus Vision Center online or call 702-473-5660.