Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness within the U.S., which is why our team at Virginia Eye Consultants emphasizes the importance of routine eye exams. By regularly getting your eyes screened for glaucoma, you can detect the disease early, should it develop, and get prompt treatment to protect your eyesight. To help you better understand this progressive eye disease, our board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Constance Okeke answers frequently asked questions about glaucoma below.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease with multiple factors that can cause degeneration of the optic nerve, which is what gives us the ability to see. When a person has glaucoma, this nerve deteriorates, damaging vision in the process.
How is glaucoma detected?
Your eye doctor can detect the presence of the disease by monitoring the appearance of the optic nerve. When it’s healthy, it looks round with a thick rim. As this rim thins, glaucoma becomes a concern, as this means you have lost nerve tissue, which will eventually cause a permanent loss of vision.
Do I have glaucoma?
Glaucoma typically develops as a subtle disease with little to no symptoms. You could have the disease and still see well, even with slight deterioration. However, as nerve tissue slowly decreases, so does vision. When glaucoma reaches a more severe level, and a significant amount of vision is lost, it becomes obvious there’s a problem. Since this vision loss is permanent, it is important to screen for glaucoma and monitor the health of the optic nerve to determine when it’s the best time to treat.
Is glaucoma hereditary?
Although anyone can get glaucoma at any age, those who have a relative with the disease are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma. In fact, 1 in 8 relatives of people who have glaucoma will also have the disease. Due to this fact, those with a family history of glaucoma should tell their eye doctors to ensure they are regularly screened for the disease.
Who should be tested for glaucoma?
Since glaucoma can develop in any eyes, it is a good idea to get screened. This is especially important for individuals who have one or more risk factors of the disease, as they are more prone to developing the condition. Common factors that put you at a higher risk for glaucoma include the following:
- Elderly or those over the age of 60
- Family history of glaucoma
- African American or Hispanic
- Have taken steroids (topical, oral, or inhaled)
- Have experienced trauma to the eye
If you have more questions about glaucoma, or think you may be at risk, please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our glaucoma specialists.