Make Vision Your Priority in ‘20/20’

Published: January 2, 2020

Make Vision Your Priority in ‘20/20’

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month—and it’s finally the perfect year to make this pun!

Glaucoma happens when the normal fluid in the front of our eye doesn’t drain properly, leading to a pressure that can damage our optic nerve. The most common type of glaucoma by far, called open-angle glaucoma, is painless. However, angle-closure glaucoma comes on quickly, with blurred vision, severe pain, redness of the eye, headache, and nausea. This is a serious medical emergency, and a person with these symptoms should seek treatment right away.

Though our witty joke may have made you laugh, glaucoma is a serious eye condition that can lead to blindness if not controlled. However, with the modern treatments available, glaucoma can become a manageable condition rather than a downhill loss of vision.

How do you know if you have it?

Only an ophthalmologist can definitively diagnose glaucoma. Your usual eye doctor may recognize early signs, however, and refer you to this specialist, who will check three aspects of your eye health:

  • Any existing damage to the optic nerve
  • Increased pressure in the eye
  • Vision loss

Your eye doctor will dilate your eye to look at the optic nerve. They may test pressure or your field of view. They may also perform what is called a gonioscopy—or placement of a special lens to examine the front of your eye, where the fluid is drained.

While you should be seeing your eye doctor regularly, if you experience any vision loss or eye discomfort, schedule an appointment as soon as possible. But keep in mind that glaucoma is usually symptom-free, which makes it even more important to keep up with your eye appointments.

What are your risk factors?

Like many health conditions, glaucoma has several risk factors that may pertain to you:

  • The older you are, the higher your risk. People over 60 are especially susceptible.
  • African-Americans older than 40 are four to five times more likely to have glaucoma.
  • If someone in your direct family, such as a parent or sibling, has glaucoma, you’re more likely to also have it. Be sure to inform your eye doctor of your family history.
  • Previous eye injuries or eye conditions, nearsightedness, steroid use, and history of high pressure in your eyes can also increase your risk.

If you’ve been diagnosed, treatment is available.

Modern treatments for glaucoma include medications, laser surgery, and specialized glaucoma surgery. Talk to your eye doctor about which option may be best for you or your loved one.

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