Posted January 6, 2011
Recognizing National Glaucoma Awareness Month, January 2011
It’s called the silent stealer of sight. Glaucoma is an eye disease that attacks and damages the optic nerve – a bundle of more than 1 million nerve fibers that carry images from the eye to the brain – and results in vision loss and blindness.
Glaucoma occurs when normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises. It may develop in one eye or both. Unfortunately there is no cure for glaucoma. But early detection, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss.
Although glaucoma affects more than 4 million Americans, only half of these individuals know they have it. Consider these statistics:
- Approximately 120,000 Americans are blind from glaucoma
- U.S. physicians receive more than 7 million visits for glaucoma issues annually
- The U.S. government spends more than $1.5 billion each year on costs related to glaucoma, including Social Security benefits, lost income tax revenues and health care expenditures
- African-Americans are 6 to 8 times more likely to experience glaucoma
- Internationally, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness
Types of Glaucoma
Everyone, from babies to senior citizens, is at risk for glaucoma, which comes in different forms:
- open-angle glaucoma – the most common form, but with virtually no symptoms; vision loss first occurs with the peripheral, or side, vision; individuals usually compensate by unconsciously turning their heads to the side and may not notice anything different until significant vision is lost
- low-tension or normal-tension glaucoma – optic nerve damage and side vision loss that occurs in individuals with normal eye pressure; individuals with low blood pressure may be at risk for the disease
- angle-closure glaucoma – occurs when there is a sudden increase in eye pressure caused by fluid build up in the front of the eye; symptoms include severe pain, nausea, redness, and blurred vision; without treatment to improve the flow of fluid, the eye can become blind in one or two days
- congenital glaucoma – a defect in the angle of the eye slows normal drainage of fluid, causing increased pressure; common symptoms include cloudy eyes, sensitivity to light and excessive tearing; if caught in time, surgery can correct the problem
- secondary glaucoma – develops as a complication to other medical conditions, such as eye surgery, advanced cataracts, eye injuries, some eye tumors or eye inflammations; treatment options include medications, laser or conventional surgery
To prevent and detect glaucoma, schedule a comprehensive eye examination as recommended by your eye doctor. Early diagnosis is vital to delaying the progression of the disease.
Do you, or does someone you know, have glaucoma? Were any symptoms detected prior to the actual diagnosis? What treatment options were recommended? – Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group