Human beings have five unique senses for functionality and interaction with the rest of the world. However, vision accounts for roughly 80% of initial impressions and decisions made. Because of this, a majority of people fear losing sight more than any other sense. Glaucoma is a disease that has the potential to do just that.
Don’t get on my nerves
Glaucoma is the name for a series of diseases that can wreak havoc on the eye. In healthy eyes, fluid called aqueous humor enters and exits through a series of channels. When those drainage channels become blocked, excess fluid remains in the eye. The buildup can cause pressure to intraocular pressure to increase, damaging or destroying nerves at the back of the eye.
These nerves, designed to send images to the brain, stop functioning as normal. The result are blind spots that begin on the outside edge of vision before working inward. Any loss of sight from glaucoma is permanent at this time.
Information worth remembering
Nearly 3 million Americans have glaucoma, with an estimated 80 million cases around the world. With such high numbers, the ailment is the second leading cause of blindness globally. In the United States alone, glaucoma accounts for approximately 12% of all cases of blindness. To make matters worse, 50% of people aren’t even aware the disease is present.
Silence isn’t golden
Often called the silent thief of sight, glaucoma initially has no symptoms in roughly 95% of individuals. From the onset, the condition can work quietly for up to 15 years before symptoms ever appear. In most cases, the first indication of the disease is sight loss along the edges of the affected eye. By this point, there’s no way to stop the damage that’s been done. If left alone, glaucoma will consume all vision in the eye in a matter of time.
Tools of the trade
Fortunately, ophthalmologists have the tools needed to detect glaucoma when the disease first appears in the eye. Regular eye exams may be the only way to diagnose and treat glaucoma before any damage occurs. Through drops or laser surgery, the healthcare specialist may be able to return eye pressure to a safe level.
Knowledge is power
In addition to catching early signs of glaucoma, eye doctors can explain factors that make the ailment more likely to appear. While age or family history can’t be avoided, a physician can identify habits that can increase the likelihood of glaucoma. Changes to a patient’s lifestyle can prevent the condition from ever showing up in the first place.
When you gotta go
As individuals get older, the need for regular visits to an eye doctor will increase. Patients 40 to 54 years of age should schedule an eye exam every 2 to 4 years for a thorough analysis. Those in the 55 to 64 range should plan a trip once every 1 to 3 years. Anyone over 65 years old should plan a visit once every 1 to 2 years.
If the ophthalmologist detects any issues, more frequent exams may be required. As always, follow the doctor’s guidelines to ensure vision remains as good as possible.