By: Thuy McKitrick, Pharmacy Program Manager
Glaucoma, often called “the sneak thief of sight,” has no symptoms and is a leading cause of irreversible blindness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, glaucoma is an illness that affects more than 3 million Americans – many of whom don’t know they have it.
What is Glaucoma?
The most common type of glaucoma happens when your eye does not properly drain fluid leading to build up of pressure in the eye. This pressure over time begins to damage your optic nerve, which is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain allowing you to see. Since this type of glaucoma is painless, many people do not seek care and irreversible damage, like blindness can occur. It is important to understand who is at higher risk for glaucoma and have regular eyes exams to catch this disease early on.
How is Glaucoma Detected?
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.
The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.
What are the Risk Factors?
Although the most common forms of glaucoma primarily affect middle-aged and the elderly people, glaucoma can affect those of all ages.
Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.
How Does Glaucoma Affect People with Diabetes?
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as are non-diabetics. Since eye complications are common with diabetes, it is very important that people with diabetes get their eyes examined on a regular basis. The National Eye Institute recommends that people with diabetes get a dilated eye exam at least once a year.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
There is no cure for glaucoma and damage cannot be reversed. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.
Have questions about your health? Contact your Colorado Physician Partners practice today.
Our practices have care coordinators who can help you achieve your health goals! They can assist you in navigating the health care system and can connect you with medical and non-medical services. Learn more about care coordination.