January is National Glaucoma Awareness month, bringing some much-needed visibility to a silent thief of vision. Glaucoma affects millions of people and is one of the biggest contributors to new cases of blindness each year. Here are some things you need to know about glaucoma and how to protect your eyesight.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is not any one disease or condition of the eye; rather, it is a combination of issues that causes damage to the optic nerve. High intraocular pressure, or pressure in the eye, is the most common culprit of optic nerve damage. Since glaucoma causes a very gradual loss of vision, sufferers may not know they have it until it has stolen a large portion of their sight. For this reason, a regular eye exam is an absolute must for everyone.

Who Gets Glaucoma?

While glaucoma can happen to anyone, even infants, people with a family history of glaucoma or who are diabetic have a greater risk of developing it themselves. Adults over 40, and people who take certain medications such as corticosteroids have additional risk of developing glaucoma. Also in the higher risk category are African American, Latino, Japanese, Russian, Irish, or Scandinavian adults, especially as they age. Individuals with any of these characteristics should be very vigilant about obtaining a yearly eye exam. While glaucoma has no direct means of prevention, early diagnosis and treatment can help preserve remaining sight.

How is Glaucoma Treated?

The main key to treating glaucoma is to manage eye pressure. This is typically done by applying eye drops in the affected eye or taking an oral medication to control eye pressure. Since glaucoma is a painless condition, it is easily be ignored by sufferers to their own detriment. If prescribed pressure-controlling drops or medications, a patient should take whatever measures are necessary to abide by the dosing schedule. Failure to take the medication can mean further loss of vision, including blindness. Laser surgery may be an effective method of treatment for some cases but is not a guarantee.

Glaucoma may be a silent problem, but it can make a very loud impact on a person’s life. Commit yourself to having a yearly eye exam, especially if you have a higher risk of developing the condition. Acting as your own eye health advocate may someday save your sight. Schedule your appoint with your Phoenix Eye Doctors today!