Now that January is upon us, you may be hearing more about glaucoma. This is because January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time to teach others, particularly senior citizens who are most at risk, about this dangerous disease. If you are one who likes to wait to seek medical treatment until you experience symptoms, you may be surprised to find out that this method will not serve you well if you are dealing with glaucoma. Your only symptom may be irreversible loss of sight. Instead, to prevent or treat glaucoma before it is too late, you must have regular eye examinations by a licensed professional.
Understanding Symptoms & Effects of Glaucoma
Glaucoma occurs when your optic nerve is damaged. Once it is damaged, it can never be repaired. The optic nerve is what transfers the images that you see into the brain for processing. Without the use of your optic nerve, you are blind. Glaucoma most often develops because of excess fluid in the front part of your eye. This fluid pushes on the optic nerve and irreversibly damages it. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of this disease. Fluid buildup is usually gradual and occurs because there is nowhere for the fluid to go. Closed-angle glaucoma is less common but is an emergency because fluid buildup occurs quickly and can cause blindness in a very short time.
While you may know when a closed-angle attack is occurring, such as by experiencing terrible eye pain, suddenly poor vision, halo vision or extreme nausea and vomiting, you will not know when open-angle glaucoma is forming without an examination. At an eye examination by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, your eye pressure will be checked. If your provider notices higher than normal pressure, he or she can prescribe drops that can prevent any further damage to the optic nerve. This can keep glaucoma from advancing and can save your eyesight.