OAO Ophthalmologists Advise:
Early Detection is Key to Slowing Progression of Glaucoma

Only half of Americans know they have the common, potentially blinding eye disease; having routine eye exams can help prevent glaucoma-related vision loss

Beware the “Sneak Thief of Sight”

Throughout Glaucoma Awareness Month this January,Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology reminds readers that glaucoma remains a leading cause of preventable blindness. Glaucoma affects more than 2.7 million Americans age 40 and older, and because it often has no early warning symptoms, half of all people with glaucoma do not yet know they have the disease. Because glaucoma can quietly damage vision if left untreated, it has earned the nickname of the “Sneak Thief of Sight.”

In the most common form of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, vision loss is so slow that people are often not aware of it until it is too late. Pressure inside the eye (called intraocular pressure) is elevated but not high enough to be noticeable; this pressure pushes at the back of the eye on the optic nerve, creating irreparable damage. Without proper treatment to slow the nerve damage, open-angle glaucoma patients usually lose peripheral vision first, then may eventually go blind.

The good news? Knowing your risks for glaucoma and monitoring your eye health with regular visits to an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor specializing in the diagnosis, medical and surgical treatment of eye diseases and conditions – can save your sight. The Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that all adults have a baseline, comprehensive dilated eye exam at least by age 40 — the time when early signs of disease and changes in vision may start to happen. The exam, which includes an eye pressure check, may also require a visual field examination – as determined by an ophthalmologist. For seniors age 65 and older, the Oklahoma Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years, or as directed by an ophthalmologist.

Some people are at greater risk for developing glaucoma and may need to see their ophthalmologist on a more frequent basis, specifically for glaucoma testing; risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Eye pressure level
  • Older age
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • African ancestry or Latino/Hispanic ethnicity
  • Thinner central cornea (the clear, front part of the eye covering the pupil and colored iris)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus
  • Myopia (nearsightedness)
  • Genetic mutations     

Vision loss from glaucoma cannot be reversed, so early detection is critical. To learn more about glaucoma and how to keep your eyes healthy, visit geteyesmart.org.