January is Glaucoma Awareness Month
(Wahiawa, Hawaii) January 10, 2017 – Nearly 3 million Americans suffer from glaucoma and that number is expected to increase 50 percent by 2032, according to the 2014 Prevent Blindness “Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems” report. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve, which is responsible for sending images from the eye to the brain. January is designated Glaucoma Awareness Month by the American Academy of Ophthalmology to remind those most at risk to get regular checkups from their eye care professional.
“Glaucoma typically occurs due to an increase in pressure in the eye, or intraocular pressure, because of either an overproduction of fluid in the eye or blockage in the eye’s natural drain,” said Christopher Tortora, M.D., Medical Director of Hawaiian Eye Center. “It can also occur in those with normal eye pressure and is believed to be related to poor blood flow to the optic nerve.”
Open-angle and angle-closure are the two primary types of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease and progresses slowly over time. Angle-closure glaucoma is less common but progresses quickly with a painful, sudden buildup of pressure in the eye because the angle of the drainage area is too narrow.
Gradual loss of peripheral vision is a common symptom of open-angle glaucoma. Symptoms usually go unnoticed until the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. Angle-closure glaucoma symptoms are more abrupt. Symptoms include severe eye pain, headache, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, seeing haloes around lights and red eye.
People most at risk of developing glaucoma include those:
- Aged 40 and over
- Of Hispanic, Asian or African-American descent
- With a family history of the disease in a parent or sibling
- Diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension
- Who’ve had an eye injury or eye surgery
- With extreme nearsightedness (myopia)
- Taking steroid medications for an extended period of time
“Most of the risk factors for developing glaucoma cannot be prevented, and the optic nerve doesn’t regenerate itself,” Dr. Tortora said. “However, glaucoma can be successfully controlled with an early diagnosis and treatment to slow down or stop further damage. The goal is to lower eye pressure with treatment ranging from eye drops to laser surgery and microsurgery.”
Everyone 40 and over should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam every two to three years from their eye care professional to check for glaucoma and other eye diseases. Individuals most likely to develop glaucoma should get an eye exam once a year, including those 40 and over with other risk factors or 60 and over.