Did you know that one of the most common causes of vision loss is glaucoma? Glaucoma describes several eye conditions that cause irreversible damage to your optic nerve, which sends visual information to your brain for processing.
At Urban Eye Care in Seattle, Washington, Jennifer Andrews, OD, and our entire care team use comprehensive eye exams to precisely diagnose and treat vision problems, like glaucoma. If advanced treatment is required, Dr. Andrews works with highly skilled surgeons in Seattle to provide the best outcome possible.
Our experienced team has put together this article to help you understand the risk factors for developing glaucoma and what you can do about it. Read on to learn more.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a type of eye disease that results in increased pressure in the eye. This increased pressure is often caused by a buildup of fluid.
As the disease progresses, this excess pressure causes the optic nerve to deteriorate. As a result, the optic nerve can’t send accurate images to your brain. Because of this, people with glaucoma develop blind spots in their field of vision.
About 15% of people with untreated glaucoma lose vision in at least one eye within 20 years of the onset of the disease. Different types of glaucoma cause a variety of symptoms. One or a combination of the following could indicate glaucoma:
- Blind spots in the center or side (periphery) of your vision
- Tunnel vision
- Blurred vision
- Halos when looking at lights
- Eye pain or redness
- Nausea and vomiting
There’s no cure for glaucoma, and left untreated it can lead to blindness. That’s why it’s important to understand the risk factors and maintain regular eye exams for early diagnosis to avoid irreversible damage.
What are the risk factors for developing glaucoma?
Researchers still aren’t sure what causes glaucoma. Many theories exist, but one root cause has yet to be discovered.
There are some strong associations for developing glaucoma with certain risk factors. One of the strongest correlations for developing glaucoma is heredity. In fact, recent studies have linked specific genes to excessive eye pressure and optic nerve damage.
Other risk factors that increase your chances of developing glaucoma include:
- Age: Being over 60 (or over 40 if you’re black)
- Ethnicity: Being Hispanic, Asian, or black
- Certain medical conditions: Having diabetes, sickle cell anemia, high blood pressure, or heart disease
- Certain eye conditions: Being extremely near- or farsighted, having thin corneas, or having had certain eye surgeries or injuries
- Medication use: Using corticosteroid medications for long periods (especially as eye drops)
Can I minimize my risk of developing glaucoma?
You may not be able to stop glaucoma, but there are steps you can take to slow its progress and keep your vision for as long as possible. By following these guidelines, you can ensure early detection if there’s a problem as well as your best eye health:
- Maintain regular comprehensive eye exams (with dilation)
- Understand your family’s overall and eye health history
- Exercise regularly and stay physically active
- Follow directions on any prescription medications
- Wear eye protection when doing activities with increased risk of eye injury
Since there’s no known cure for glaucoma, the importance of regular eye exams can’t be overstated. If the disease is diagnosed early, it’s possible to stop blindness or major vision loss from occurring.
Ready to learn more about preventing or treating glaucoma?
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of glaucoma or want to reduce your risk of developing this condition, Dr. Andrews can help. Comprehensive eye exams are the top way to catch glaucoma early, making treatment more successful.