Glaucoma is an eye disease which, without timely treatment, can cause permanent vision loss and even blindness. Unfortunately, many misconceptions about the disease can leave you misinformed. Below we sort fact from fiction by debunking 6 of the most common glaucoma myths.
Glaucoma Facts vs. Myths
MYTH 1: Glaucoma is a single disease
Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases; two common forms are open-angle glaucoma (OAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG).
In open-angle glaucoma, the drainage structure in your eye (called the trabecular meshwork) doesn’t allow the fluid inside the eye to flow out as it should, causing an increase in internal ocular pressure that damages the optic nerve. OAG develops slowly and usually by the time people perceive symptoms such as peripheral vision loss, they already have significant optic nerve damage.
In angle-closure glaucoma, the eye doesn’t drain fluid as it should because the drainage channel between your iris and cornea becomes too narrow, causing increased eye pressure. This pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. ACG can occur suddenly or gradually.
MYTH 2: Only the elderly suffer from glaucoma
Although it’s true that people over 60 are at a greater risk of developing glaucoma compared to people in their 40s, there are other types of glaucoma that can affect people aged 20 to 50 and even young infants (due to abnormal ocular development).
In addition to age, those with a higher risk of developing glaucoma include:
- African Americans and Hispanics
- Individuals with a family history of glaucoma
- Patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or sickle cell anemia
- Those who have previously sustained an eye injury
- People taking steroid medications over the long term
MYTH 3: Glaucoma shows symptoms early on
The most common form of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, shows virtually no signs or symptoms until its later stages when vision loss sets in. Despite what people may think, the increased eye pressure causes no pain. Since peripheral vision is generally first compromised very slowly, you may not recognize vision loss until your vision has become significantly impaired. The only way to detect glaucoma is to undergo a comprehensive eye exam. Every eye exam at progressive Eye Care includes a careful screening for glaucoma.
MYTH 4: Nothing can be done once you have glaucoma
While there's currently no cure for glaucoma, many effective treatment options exist: eye drops, oral medications, as well as laser and surgical procedures that can help slow glaucoma progression. Most treatments are aimed at lowering the pressure inside the eye by decreasing the production of the the fluid that fills the front chamber of the eye or by increasing the outflow of that fluid. This internal fluid, called aqueous humor, is unrelated to our tears.
MYTH 5: Testing for glaucoma is painful
Actually, testing for glaucoma is painless. At Progressive Eye Care we have several different ways to measure eye pressure and none of them are painful. Additionally, Drs. Richardson and Kimball will carefully inspect every patient's optic nerve to look for signs of damage because many patients with glaucoma may not present with high eye pressure. If the eye pressure is high or the optic nerve appearance is suspect additional tests will be employed in order to carefully assess our patient's glaucoma risks. Two of those tests are visual field testing and OCT (optical coherence tomography), non-invasive imaging, which are also painless.
MYTH 6: You can’t prevent glaucoma
Regular eye exams are the only way to prevent permanent vision loss from glaucoma. That's why routine comprehensive eye exams which include glaucoma testing are so important. At Progressive Eye Care we have the experience and technology required to identify glaucoma long before there is any loss of vision. With an early diagnosis glaucoma treatment is more successful and less burdensome.
Getting your eyes checked regularly is your best defense against vision loss from glaucoma and so many other eye diseases. Contact Progressive Eye Exam in Farmington and Southbury, CT to book your comprehensive eye exam today!