January is National Glaucoma Month, and it’s important to raise awareness about this irreversible eye disease. Over 3 million Americans in the United States have Glaucoma and many are unaware that they have it. Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” as it’s one of the leading causes of blindness, and it typically does not have symptoms such as pain.

There isn’t a cure for Glaucoma. With an aging population, the epidemic of blindness caused by Glaucoma will continue to increase. Individuals who are over the age of 40 should have an eye examination, as symptoms of Glaucoma are difficult to detect. In addition, Glaucoma is more prevalent in the African-American and Latino population, especially for those over the age of 60. People of Japanese descent are particularly at risk.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause damage to the optic nerve. Though common forms of Glaucoma mainly affect the middle-aged and elderly, Glaucoma can affect people of all ages. Damage to the optic nerve causes vision loss. The optic nerve transmits images from the eye and the brain processes and interprets those images. Open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma occurs when tissue in the eye gradually becomes less efficient at draining fluid. Eye pressure called intraocular pressure, rises, causing irreparable damage to the optic nerve. Without proper treatment to halt the nerve damage, open-angle glaucoma patients typically lose peripheral vision first, and then they may eventually go blind. Fortunately, most vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented with early detection.

Types of Glaucoma

The two primary types of glaucoma are Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG), and Angle-Closure Glaucoma.

With Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma, the eye’s drainage canals become blocked, and as a result, eye fluid accumulates which causes elevated eye pressure. The eye pressure, in turn, causes damage to the optic nerve.

Angle Closure Glaucoma is where the aqueous cannot drain properly, and the drainage canal entrance is either too narrow or closed. The eye pressure rises quickly and can be triggered by pupil dilation.

The other two types of Glaucoma are Normal Tension and Secondary Glaucomas. In Normal Tension Glaucoma, there is optic nerve damage, but the eye pressure is not elevated highly. A family history of glaucoma and cardiovascular disease are risk factors for this type of glaucoma. Secondary Glaucomas are those that develop secondary to other eye diseases and conditions such as eye trauma, cataracts, diabetes, eye surgery, or tumors.

Glaucoma Prevention

Similar to other eye diseases and conditions, early detection is key to saving your vision. A comprehensive eye exam or additional eye tests will be able to detect if you have Glaucoma. If detected, your Ophthalmologist can start treatment for the eye disease immediately. Glaucoma is a chronic condition that must be monitored for life, and treatments can range from eye medications, surgery, and laser treatment.

If you believe you are at risk for Glaucoma or experienced vision loss schedule an eye examination with the Fort Lauderdale Eye Institute. Our Ophthalmologists have decades of experience and are experts at treating Glaucoma and other serious eye conditions. Call to schedule your consultation today at (954) 741-5555.