Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, and it’s estimated that the prevalence of glaucoma in the U.S. will reach over 3-million this year. Although more people are expected to have glaucoma as the U.S. population ages, that doesn’t mean each person with the condition will suffer blindness.
In fact, vision loss from the most common form of glaucoma is gradual and painless, earning the eye condition the nickname “the silent thief of sight.” Most patients don’t realize they have glaucoma until their eyesight becomes noticeably worse, at which point vision loss is already permanent.
This is yet another reason why eye doctors stress the importance of regular eye exams since early detection and treatment is the key to preserving eyesight.
While it’s true that any vision loss that occurs from glaucoma is irreversible, blindness is usually the result of glaucoma that’s left untreated. Typically, the progression of vision loss can stopped or be slowed with proper diagnosis and treatment.
Subtle Vision Change Symptoms
Vision loss due to glaucoma is traditionally explained as a loss of “peripheral vision,” meaning one can’t see the outer edges in their field of vision. Over time, peripheral vision loss increases and, ultimately, central vision can be affected as well.
Because of this initial loss of peripheral vision, informational materials for the general public tend to describe the loss of vision due to glaucoma as “tunnel vision,” or as if one is looking through a straw.
However, as research reported by the National Institute of Health verifies, vision loss from glaucoma is not as simple as what we typically think of when someone mentions losing peripheral vision.
In fact, the NIH research reports that many patients mention “needing more light” and “having blurry vision” as their most common symptoms of glaucoma. Others reported a general “dimness” or “cloudiness” to their vision.
Several other studies have shown that in addition to needing more light or having more blurry, dim, or cloudy vision, patients see less contrast between light and dark and between shades of color. These effects of glaucoma can occur even early in the disease.
So, glaucoma not only involves narrowing of one’s visual field, or loss of peripheral vision, but also a deterioration in the quality of one’s overall vision.
Who’s At Risk For Glaucoma?
Although anyone has some risk of developing glaucoma, certain factors can increase your risk of glaucoma, including:
- Family history of glaucoma
- Being over age 60
- Being African-American, Hispanic/Latino, or of Asian descent
- Being diabetic
- Having hypertension
- Past or current steroid use
- Eye injuries
- Thinner corneas
Why Early Diagnosis Is Crucial
As we’ve discussed, glaucoma is an eye disease that comes with 3 strikes against it:
- Development of glaucoma is usually painless and gradual, with no “obvious” symptoms until vision loss occurs
- Vision loss from glaucoma cannot be reversed
- There currently is no cure for glaucoma
However, having glaucoma is by no means a hopeless condition. Medication and/or surgery can slow or stop the progression of glaucoma, but the key is that the disease is diagnosed in time.
The key to early diagnosis is regular eye exams, particularly for those who have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. If you have a family history of glaucoma or any of the risk factors mentioned above, talk with your optometrist about how often you should be evaluated for glaucoma. Being proactive can mean all the difference in the health of your vision for years to come!
Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical in Knoxville offers a variety of options for maintaining your optimal eyesight. Dr. Travis Thompson can recommend the best solutions for you based on a complete eye examination and a discussion of your vision needs both at work and in leisure, including monitoring for and managing glaucoma.
Since 2009, Hardin Valley Eyecare & Optical has provided the highest quality vision care products and trusted optometry services to our patients in Knoxville and the surrounding areas. Our eye care professionals are dedicated to providing exceptional personal service to each and every person who walks through our door. Call us at (865) 409-1253 or contact us to schedule your appointment!