The first reaction that I get when I discuss glaucoma with my patients is shock. Many of them have heard of this disease before and many of them worry that they will eventually become blind. While glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old, it can often be prevented with early and effective treatment.
What is glaucoma?
It is classified as an optic neuropathy, which means it’s a disease that damages the optic nerve. To this day we still haven’t really figured out all the complexities of glaucoma. Many people think that glaucoma is just elevated pressure in the eye. While this may be the case for some people, there are also others who have glaucoma but don’t have an elevated IOP (intraocular pressure). So in the end, we have a good idea what glaucoma is and how to treat it, however, we can’t say for sure what causes it.
Do you have Glaucoma?
The first step in determining if someone may have glaucoma is to ask them questions. Here are some risk factors that may lead to a higher than normal risk of developing glaucoma:
- Over the age of 40
- Family history of glaucoma
- African, Hispanic, or Asian heritage
- Elevated eye pressures
- Farsightedness or nearsightedness
- History of an eye injury
- Long-term steroid medication use (including nasal steroid sprays)
- Thin corneas
- Thin optic nerves
- A history of diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, poor blood circulation or other health problems affecting the whole body
Some of those risk factors can only be evaluated by an Ophthalmologist, so having a routine eye exam is very important. A thorough examination and some in-office testing will allow us to determine if you have glaucoma or are at risk of developing it. We’ll cover these tests and the different types of glaucoma in another post, so stay tuned!