Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for patients between the ages of 18-65 years of age. It is estimated that approximately 3 million people have Glaucoma, yet only half of those actually know that they have it. While most people are familiar with the eye disease Glaucoma, few are aware of why Glaucoma is such a significant threat to sight.
Most serious eye diseases or eye conditions produce some symptoms that make patients uncomfortable or disturb their vision. Glaucoma begins without any symptoms or obvious loss of vision. People can actually have rather extensive loss of peripheral vision (i.e. side vision) and not know it. In this way glaucoma is quite insidious and, if not diagnosed and treated early in its course, will lead to progressive and permanent vision loss. This is what makes Glaucoma such a dangerous disease.
The fact that most cases of Glaucoma are initially asymptomatic makes regular screening exams very important. High Intraocular Pressure is one of the diagnostic signs that may indicate the presence of Glaucoma. National studies estimate that between 3-6 million people in the United States have higher than normal Intraocular Pressure (IOP), without obvious clinical signs of damage to the optic nerve. Thus it is likely that there are another million people who may have Glaucoma, but have not yet been diagnosed because they do not have access to eye care or even Glaucoma screenings. Just in the United States, there are approximately 100,000 patients who are believed to be legally blind from glaucoma.
Many patients are under the impression that Glaucoma is just due to a high pressure within the eye. While a high intraocular pressure certainly can be one cause of Glaucoma, and in fact is the most common cause of Glaucoma, a high IOP is not the only cause of Glaucoma. Glaucoma is really not a single disease but is a collective term that is used to characterize a broad range of eye problems that damage the optic nerve and can steal your sight without any warning or symptoms. cause loss of vision. Regardless of the cause, the various types of Glaucoma share a common factor-if not diagnosed early, treated properly and controlled, they will result in permanent vision loss and potentially blindness.
As we described earlier, the most disturbing attributes of Glaucoma are that in most cases it begins slowly and without visual symptoms. This makes it likely to go unnoticed by patients unless they are consistent about having routine eye examinations with Glaucoma testing. It is entirely possible to have a higher than normal Intraocular Pressure (IOP) and vision loss and simply not know it. Fortunately, Glaucoma is treatable, and in many cases patients retain excellent vision throughout their lives.
How Often Should I Be Checked for Glaucoma?
At Center for Sight, we recommend that all patients over 50 years of age who have no previous family history of Glaucoma or other general health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, be evaluated for Glaucoma every two years.
If there is any family history of Glaucoma at all, or there any other general health problems, we recommend patients be evaluated for Glaucoma every year beginning at age 40.
In addition, we now also know that there is considerable risk for siblings of those who have Glaucoma. In the Nottingham Glaucoma Study, it was found that the siblings of Glaucoma patients are 5 times the risk for developing Glaucoma by the age of 70 and therefore should be examined every year.
Glaucoma is a very complex eye disease, and not simply an elevated Intraocular Pressure (IOP). Nonetheless, when detected early it can be successfully treated. Center for Sight and its staff provide the full scope of advanced technology diagnostic testing and treatment, as well as taking the time necessary to give each patient the personal education needed to fully understand their condition and get the best possible outcomes for their patients.
If you or a family member or friend have not had a recent Glaucoma screening or examination for Glaucoma, please take a moment to request an appointment by calling Center for Sight in Fall River, Massachusetts at 508-730-2020.
Center for Sight is conveniently located for patients in need of diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and from Attleboro, Fairhaven, Fall River, Franklin, Mansfield, Marion, Mattapoisett, Medfield, Milford, New Bedford, North Attleboro, North Dartmouth, Norton, Oxford, Rehoboth, Somerset, Swansea, Taunton, Walpole, Whitinsville, Woonsocket, Providence, Smithfield, Westport, Lakeville, Dighton, Little Compton and Tiverton.