Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world and it is estimated that 60 million people suffer from the affliction globally. Currently, 3 million Americans have glaucoma but shockingly only half know they have it.
Glaucoma affects ethnicities at different rates, with African Americans being 15 times more likely to be visually impaired than Caucasians. Other high risk groups include people over the age of 60, and those who have hereditary cases of diabetes or are nearsighted.
What Causes Glaucoma?
The early stages of glaucoma can continue without the sufferer noticing their vision is being affected. This is because the pressure build up within the eye is so gradual, that damage to the eye’s optic nerve occurs over years or even decades.
Once the condition progresses, permanent damage to the optic nerve results in a permanent blindness if not treated. The vision that is lost to glaucoma can never be restored unfortunately.
Pressure inside the eye begins to build causing permanent damage to the eyes optic nerve, interfering with the brain’s ability to register signals being sent to it. Without any treatment, permanent blindness can happen in as little as a few years.
Glaucoma affects people at different rates of prevalence, but typically include:
Those with a family history of cataracts or other vision impairments
People who suffer from or have a family history of diabetes
Populations over the age of 60
Those with myopia
African Americans at a substantial rate over other ethnicities
Glaucoma Signs & Symptoms
There are different types of glaucoma but the signs and symptoms, with the two most common forms being primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG).
Primary open-angle glaucoma shows almost no symptoms until significant loss of vision has occurred, making it extremely difficult to diagnose in its early stage.
Angle-closure glaucoma behaves differently than POAG, with symptoms occurring suddenly and without warning. These signs include:
Appearance of halos around bright lights
Nausea or vomiting accompanying eye pain
Hazy or blurred vision
Severe eye and head pain
Sudden loss of sight
Treatments include surgery for severe cases, but the use of eye drops or pills to reduce pressure within the eye can also be prescribed. Unfortunately, surgery or medicine do not restore sight already lost to Glaucoma. It’s important to keep up with your routine eye exam schedule, and to discuss any sudden changes in vision with your Optometrist.