Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It most often occurs in people over the age of 40, although there are rare congenital forms. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans over the age of 40, and Hispanics over the age of 60 are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
There are many types of glaucoma, and many theories about the causes of glaucoma. The fact remains that the exact cause is unknown. High eye pressure inside the eye is one of the main causes of glaucoma, but even those with normal eye pressure may develop the disease.
The most common form of glaucoma, primary open angle glaucoma, develops slowly and usually without any symptoms in the early stages. Many people are not aware they have glaucoma until significant vision loss has occurred. It typically starts out affecting peripheral or side vision, but can advance to central vision loss. If left untreated glaucoma will most likely lead to significant vision loss and may even lead to blindness.
There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but if diagnosed and treated early it can usually be controlled. Eye drops and/or surgery can slow or even prevent further vision loss. However, vision already lost as a result of glaucoma cannot be restored. That is why the American Optometric Association recommends an annual dilated comprehensive eye health evaluation for anyone at risk for glaucoma as a preventive eye care measure. Depending on your specific risk factors your eye doctor may recommend more frequent evaluations.
The take home message is simple. Comply with your eye doctor’s recommendations regarding follow up as it relates to your risk for glaucoma and, just as importantly, your follow up if you are currently being treated for glaucoma. Early diagnosis is the key and is crucial to maintaining a lifetime of good vision.