Did you know that more than 2.7 million Americans aged 40 years and older are affected by glaucoma, a leading cause of irreversible blindness? Amazingly, only half of those affected even know they have the disease.
Glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages. Vision loss happens so gradually that patients are often unaware of it until their vision has already been compromised.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the best way to avoid glaucoma and related blindness is by having routine, comprehensive eye exams.
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and happens when tissue in the eye becomes less efficient at draining fluid. As this happens, eye pressure - also known as intraocular pressure - rises, causing irreversible damage to the optic nerve.
Without proper treatment to prevent the nerve damage, open-angle glaucoma patients usually lose their peripheral vision first. Eventually, they may go completely blind.
Fortunately, you can avoid vision loss from glaucoma with early detection and medical intervention.
All adults need to have a baseline, comprehensive dilated eye exam at least by age 40, which is when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to happen. The exam, which includes an eye pressure check, may also require a so-called ‘visual field examination’.
For seniors age 65 and older, experts recommend a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years, or as directed by an ophthalmologist. Also, some people are at greater risk for developing glaucoma and may need to see their ophthalmologist more frequently.
Risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Eye pressure level
- Older age
- Family history of glaucoma
- African ancestry or Latino/ Hispanic ethnicity
- Thinner central cornea - the clear, front part of the eye covering the pupil and colored iris
- Low blood pressure (BP)
- Type 2 diabetes
- Genetic mutations
Many patients with risk factors for glaucoma don’t know about their risk until it is too late. Sadly, their lives would be completely different if they had known of their risk and taken action to have a comprehensive eye exam sooner - because once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored.
So if you’re over 40 years old, isn’t it time you got a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible?