January is a great time to look after your health – and your eyes – during National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
It’s estimated that half of those with Glaucoma do not know they have the disease – that’s over one million people in the US. Glaucoma is characterized by progressive damage to the optic nerve that can cause irreversible damage if not discovered early.
“Glaucoma is a stealth disease that initially causes no symptoms. The slow loss of vision is barely perceptible,” says Karen Todd, MD, Glaucoma Fellowship Ophthalmologist at Florida Eye Institute. “Certain factors put you at risk, such as family history and age. But, the only way to definitively discover Glaucoma is with a comprehensive eye exam,” she emphasizes.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Primary Open-Angle is the most common type of glaucoma. It happens gradually, where the eye does not drain fluid as well as it should (like a clogged drain). As a result, eye pressure builds and starts to damage the optic nerve. Damage can occur even at normal pressures due to sensitivity of the optic nerve. Open-angle glaucoma is painless and causes no vision changes at first.
Closed-Angle glaucoma, or narrow-angle glaucoma, happens when the iris is very close to the drainage angle in their eye. The iris can end up blocking the drainage angle. You can think of it like a piece of paper sliding over a sink drain. When the drainage angle gets completely blocked, eye pressure rises very quickly. This is called an acute attack. It is a true eye emergency, and you should be treated immediately by an ophthalmologist.
Signs of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack:
- Vision is suddenly blurry
- Severe eye painFEI_Glaucoma-Month_2019
- Nausea or vomiting
- Seeing colored rings or halos around lights
Many people with angle-closure glaucoma develop it slowly. This is called chronic angle-closure glaucoma. There are no symptoms at first, so they don’t know they have it until the damage is severe or they have an attack.
Dr. Todd reminds people that “both types of glaucoma can lead to blindness if not treated early. That’s why we encourage all patients to have an annual exam to monitor for signs of the disease, especially if over the age of 60.”
Florida Eye Institute, a multi-specialty ophthalmology center, has offices in Vero Beach and Sebastian. Contact 772.569-9500 or visit www.fleye.com for more information.