Glaucoma—Sight-Stealing Disease is on the Rise

Glaucoma—Sight-Stealing Disease is on the Rise

Most of us have heard of Glaucoma, maybe an elderly relative or friend’s parent has been diagnosed with the disease, but do we really know the severity of this sight-stealing disease? The World Health Organization estimates that more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma and the National Eye Institute projects a 58 percent increase by 2030.

The Facts About Glaucoma

Did you know Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world and could steal as much as 40% of your vision without you noticing? It’s actually called “the sneak thief of sight,” because there are no symptoms until there is already damage. And once your vision is lost—there is no getting it back!

So What Exactly is Glaucoma?

The most common form of glaucoma is called primary open-angle glaucoma. It occurs when the eye gradually becomes less efficient at draining fluid. As this happens, your eye pressure, called intraocular pressure (IOP), rises. Raised eye pressure leads to damage of the optic nerve. Damage to the optic nerve can occur at different eye pressures in different patients. There is not one ‘right’ eye pressure that is the same for everyone. Your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) establishes a target eye pressure for you that he or she predicts will protect your optic nerve from further damage. Different patients have different target pressures.

Typically, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages and your vision remains normal. As the optic nerve becomes more damaged, blank spots begin to appear in your field of vision. You usually won’t notice these blank spots in your day-to-day activities until the optic nerve is significantly damaged and these spots become large. If all of the optic nerve fibers die, you will be blind.

Half of patients with glaucoma do not have high eye pressure when first examined. Eye pressure is not always the same – it rises and falls from day to day and hour to hour. So a single eye pressure test will miss many people who have glaucoma. In addition to routine eye pressure testing, it is essential that the optic nerve be examined by an ophthalmologist for proper diagnosis.

Important Information to Know

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to have routine, comprehensive eye exams by an ophthalmologist. Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian and Hispanic descent as well as people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed with glaucoma, diabetics and people who are severely nearsighted. While most people believe Glaucoma to be an elderly disease, it can actually affect people of all ages.

Geneva Eye Clinic is proud to have Anjali S. Hawkins, M.D., Phd., a glaucoma specialist on staff. She completed her residency at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago and then went on to complete a glaucoma fellowship at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary in Chicago. Visit our website to learn about Dr. Hawkins.

If you or a family member have glaucoma or are a glaucoma suspect, call for an appointment today.

To continue learning about the different types of glaucoma and treatments, visit this link:  

http://www.geteyesmart.org/eyesmart/diseases/glaucoma/risk.cfm.

For those already on glaucoma medications, visit this link:

Six Helpful Hints for People Taking Glaucoma Medication”.