Early Detection is Key With GlaucomaPosted September 26, 2021
For many of us, the anxiety that precedes our annual eye exam is rooted in one specific aspect of the ordeal: the dreaded air puff test. You know the drill: you sit down on a rolling chair, stretch your neck out to rest your chin on a piece of plastic, focus your eyes on a hot air balloon in the distance, and brace yourself for a random, intense burst of air. It feels nearly impossible not to blink or flinch, but then in a moment, it’s over!
Although most people will tell you that the “air puff test” is their least favorite part of their annual eye exam, it’s also one of the most important. The puff of air hits your eye and bounces back to a tonometer, which can measure intraocular pressure (or the pressure inside your eye.) Closely monitoring intraocular pressure helps optometrists detect potential vision issues, such as glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is actually the name for a group of several eye diseases that can lead to vision loss. They’re caused by a build up of pressure inside the eye, which damages the optic nerve.
Normally, fluid (called aqueous humor) should circulate in your eye. As new fluid is produced, the old drains out at a spot on your eye called the drainage angle. Sometimes, the drainage angle gets blocked and fluid can’t drain, which leads to an increase in pressure. As the tiny nerve fibers inside your optic nerve get squeezed by the pressure, they die and you begin to lose your sight.
Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the world. It can occur at any age, although it is more common in older adults. Progression is generally very slow, meaning you may not even notice the effects of glaucoma without regular screenings. But vision that is lost due to glaucoma can’t be recovered, so glaucoma tests at annual eye exams are important.
Who is at Risk?
Some groups of people face a higher risk of developing glaucoma than others, including those with a family history of the disease. Other risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Being farsighted or nearsighted
- Having had an eye injury in the past
- Prolonged use of steroid medications
- Diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, poor circulation and other health problems that affect the entire body
- Being African-American
If you believe you’re in a high-risk group for glaucoma, it’s especially important that you get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam each year.
Prevention and Treatment
Often, glaucoma does not produce noticeable symptoms until you’ve already lost much of your sight. However, if you experience certain persistent symptoms that are associated with potential glaucoma, you should make an appointment with your optometrist as soon as possible. These symptoms include:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Patchy blind spots
- Eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
Regular exercise can both help prevent glaucoma and mitigate its effects. According to the CDC, “Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, being physically active, and avoiding smoking will help you avoid vision loss from glaucoma.”
Common treatments for the disease include medication that relieves eye pressure and minor surgical procedures. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, your doctor will help you find the best treatment plan for you. Glaucoma is among the eye diseases that Invision is prepared to help you manage. If you have questions about your eye health, make an appointment today!