Treatment and prevention to protect your vision.

Glaucoma has been called the “silent thief of sight” because it often develops without symptoms. More than 3 million people in the United States have this chronic eye disease—and some aren’t even aware that they have it. Since the disease progresses slowly over time, vision is oftentimes already affected by the time a person seeks medical treatment. Because of this, the American Academy of Ophthalmology considers glaucoma to be the leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old.

Read on to find out who is at risk and what you can do to help protect your vision against this common eye disease.

Glaucoma—what’s that?

Glaucoma is a condition caused when fluid builds up in the front of your eye, creating pressure that damages the eye’s optic nerve. Imperative to eyesight, the optic nerve transmits visual information from your retina to your brain.

Glaucoma progresses slowly, beginning by damaging your peripheral vision. As much as 40% of vision loss can occur without a person knowing they have glaucoma. Without a diagnosis or treatment, it can cause irreversible vision loss.

The two most common forms of the disease are primary open-angle glaucoma, which progresses painlessly and slowly, and secondary glaucoma, which can be caused by eye injury, certain medications or medical conditions such as diabetes. 

Am I at risk?

Everyone is at risk for developing glaucoma, but these are the most common risk factors:

  • Being over age 40
  • Having diabetes
  • Eye trauma/injury
  • Migraines
  • High blood pressure and/or poor circulation
  • Certain medications
  • Chronic eye inflammation
  • Family history of glaucoma

It is important to note that those with diabetes are twice as likely to develop glaucoma than those without. 

Is there treatment?

Glaucoma can be treated to slow its progression, but it is incurable. Each person’s treatment will differ based on the severity of the condition and their personal medical history. Eye drops and laser treatment are the most common forms of treatment. These lower the pressure in one’s eyes and helps to control fluid flowing to and from the eyes.

What can I do to prevent glaucoma?

The best prevention against glaucoma is to educate yourself and your loved ones, maintain annual eye exams, and having healthy lifestyle habits. Here are the most effective changes to consider:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Quitting smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reducing stress
  • Eating fruits and vegetables

In fact, regularly eating dark, leafy greens will lower your risk for developing glaucoma by 20-30%! This is because the nitrates in the greens convert to nitric oxide which has been shown to improve blood flow and regulate pressure in the eyes.

If you’ve noticed any changes in your eyesight, specifically with your peripheral vision, see your optometrist as soon as possible. And don’t forget your annual comprehensive eye exam—it’s essential for early detection of many conditions including glaucoma.