Glaucoma: what you should know about this eye disorder

A doctor examines a patient’s eyes.

As we age, our eyesight can be challenged in a number of ways. Beginning in our 40s and continuing through the remainder of our lives, many of us will experience conditions ranging from dry eye and presbyopia (reduced ability to read up close) to macular degeneration and cataracts.1

Another potential eye disorder whose risk increases with age is glaucoma.

Early treatment is key

The symptoms of glaucoma can sometimes go unnoticed for years. It’s important to have your eyes examined regularly, because early treatment can often stop the damage and protect your vision.2

Glaucoma is not one single disease, but rather a group of eye diseases that can lead to vision loss or blindness. There are many different types, but most of the time when people talk about glaucoma, they’re talking about open-angle glaucoma.3

Some experts think open-angle glaucoma might be the result of a buildup of pressure behind your eye, which pushes on your optic nerve and eventually causes damage to it.

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, everyone is at risk for glaucoma—from babies on up, but seniors are at a higher risk. The foundation says more than 3 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half know they have it.4

African Americans are far more likely than their white counterparts to contract glaucoma, and people of Asian descent are also at higher risk of certain types of glaucoma.5

Glaucoma can’t be cured, but it can be treated—usually with aim of reducing pressure in the eye. Prescription eye drops are the most common early treatment. Laser treatments or surgery might also be recommended. Patients with glaucoma will need to continue treatment for the rest of their lives, according to the American Optometric Association.6

When was the last time you saw your eye doctor for an examination? If it has been more than a year, maybe you should schedule an appointment.

Sources

  1. Common Age-Related Eye Problems, Cleveland Clinic, last accessed Dec. 1, 2019, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/8567-common-aged-related-eye-problems, opens new window.
  2. Glaucoma at a Glance, National Eye Institute, last accessed Nov. 24, 2019, https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/glaucoma, opens new window.
  3. Types of Glaucoma, National Eye Institute, last accessed Nov. 24, 2019, https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/glaucoma/types-glaucoma, opens new window.
  4. Glaucoma Facts and Stats, Glaucoma Research Foundation, last accessed Nov. 24, 2019, https://www.glaucoma.org/glaucoma/glaucoma-facts-and-stats.php, opens new window.
  5. Glaucoma (Risk factors), American Optometric Association, last accessed Dec. 1, 2019, https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/glaucoma, opens new window.
  6. Glaucoma (Lifelong treatment), American Optometric Association, last accessed Dec. 1, 2019, https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/glaucoma, opens new window.