January has been chosen as the glaucoma awareness month, an important reminder that everyone should get checked for this silent thief of sight. Glaucoma, which can lead to blindness if untreated, causes changes so slowly that most patients don’t know they have it until it is found during a comprehensive eye examination or until the visual loss is very advanced.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that are associated with high internal eye pressure. It can cause damage to the optic nerve, the cable that connects the eye to the brain. This damage causes the patient to slowly lose their side vision and eventually can lead to blindness in one or both eyes. While there still is no cure for glaucoma, early diagnosis and treatment can halt the progression and thus maintain vision.
Why Glaucoma Awareness is Important
Did you know that more than 3 million Americans have glaucoma? Only half of them know they actually have it. That is why early detection through a comprehensive eye examination is extremely important. During that exam, an eye doctor can detect glaucoma as well as other potentially blinding diseases. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that everyone receive a comprehensive eye examination at age 40 and then regularly after that even if they don’t have any eye problems. It may be a good idea to get your eyes checked even younger than that, so talk with your healthcare provider to determine the right eye check-up frequency for you.
Glaucoma can affect anyone regardless of age, sex or race. However, people who fit the following criteria are at a higher risk of developing the disease:
- More than 40 years old
- Being of Hispanic, African, or Asian descent
- Being farsighted (hyperopic) or nearsighted (myopic)
- Those who ever had an eye injury
- Those with health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, migraines, or poor blood circulation.
If you meet any of these criteria, it is important for you to get regular comprehensive eye examinations. Even if you don’t have any signs or symptoms of any eye problems.
Can Glaucoma be Treated?
Even though glaucoma causes irreversible damage, the condition can usually be managed and halted with medical intervention from qualified eye specialists. Once a diagnosis is made, your eye doctor will outline the next course of action to prevent further sight damage. Treatment usually includes simply placing daily eye drops. There are also lasers and surgical procedures that can be performed to help stop the progression of glaucoma. If you are going to have cataract surgery, your surgeon can also place a microscopic stent to help with glaucoma as well. However, once glaucoma is advanced nothing can reverse the damage of the disease, thus again showing the importance of regular comprehensive eye examinations.
How to Preserve Your Vision
The most important thing you can do to protect your vision from glaucoma and other potentially blinding eye diseases is to get regular comprehensive eye exams with eye care professionals such as the doctors at the Southwest Eye Institute. Also, it is recommended to eat a healthy diet and engage in regular exercise, wear eye protection during any potentially dangerous activity, and to follow any treatment recommendations from your eye doctor.
You play a big role in keeping your eye in good shape, so schedule a comprehensive medical eye exam today. Call (915) 267-2020 to schedule a consultation with one of our eye specialists. The Southwest Eye Institute is El Paso’s largest and most comprehensive eye doctor group. Our motto is to treat all patients as if they were a family member and we strive to do that!