Glaucoma: What You Need to Know

by Melissa Chichester

Many people think of glaucoma as something that only happens to older adults; however, that is a myth. People of all ages can get glaucoma, even though it is most common in adults over 60. According to the Mayo Clinic, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in senior adults.

The National Eye Institute defines glaucoma as: “a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness.” They also note that certain groups are at higher risk for developing glaucoma, including African Americans over age 40, everyone over the age of 60, Mexican Americans, and people with a family history of glaucoma. Damage is typically caused by high amounts of pressure in the eye. Blood pressure changes might be a contributor to glaucoma.

What are the signs of glaucoma?

The signs and symptoms of glaucoma depend on how advanced the disease is. This includes:

  • Blind spots in peripheral or central vision (usually in both eyes
  • Tunnel vision
  • Severe headaches
  • Eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Eye redness
  • Halos around lights

Glaucoma often doesn’t display symptoms. It is important to note that these signs and symptoms could be a signal of an underlying problem that is glaucoma. If you are experiencing any of the above, it is necessary to seek guidance from a licensed healthcare professional.

How is glaucoma detected?

There are several tests that look for glaucoma, including:

  • Visual acuity test: A standard eye chart test
  • Visual field test: Measures peripheral vision
  • Dilated eye exam: The pupils are widened so the eye care professional can examine the optic nerve for signs of damage
  • Tonometry: Measures pressure in the eye to detect glaucoma
  • Pachymetry: Measures cornea thickness

How is glaucoma treated?

There is no cure for glaucoma, and vision cannot be restored once it is lost.. Glaucoma can be managed with the help of a physician who will prescribe the proper treatment based on the condition of your eye. Treatment may include eye drops, surgery, and medication.

Five questions to ask your doctor

If you receive a glaucoma diagnosis, it is likely that you will have questions. A glaucoma diagnosis might be unsettling and cause distress. Having questions prepared in advance will help you come up with a treatment plan with your eye doctor. Here are five questions that you can ask a professional:

  • Can I make any lifestyle changes to improve glaucoma?
  • What are the risks and side effects of my glaucoma treatment?
  • How will glaucoma affect my life and my vision right now, and in the future?
  • What kind of symptoms should I notify you about?
  • What kind of treatment will I need to manage glaucoma for the rest of my life?

By effectively communicating with your physician, you can make the best of a glaucoma diagnosis. It is important to be prepared for what may come next when you are going through glaucoma treatment.