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Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

November, 2009

Healthcare Times Feature

Wheaton Eye Clinic

In the United States, it is estimated that over four million people have glaucoma but only half of them know it. Many times those who have the disease don’t experience noticeable signs or symptoms until their vision has been irreparably damaged. And, although glaucoma can be controlled once discovered, lost eyesight usually cannot be regained. The key to combating this silent thief of sight is early detection followed by ongoing management of the disease.

Glaucoma Symptoms Can Be Subtle

The two most common types of glaucoma have completely different symptoms. Some people experience gradual loss of peripheral vision, usually in both eyes, which then advances to tunnel vision. Other people experience more pronounced symptoms including severe eye pain and headache, sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting, as well as blurred vision, halos around lights, sudden visual disturbances in low light and reddening of the eye.

Are You At Risk?

The highest risk factors for glaucoma are elevated internal eye pressure, which can only be detected during a doctor’s examination, and age. Individuals between 18-60 years should have routine eye checkups, including glaucoma screening, every two years. A yearly checkup, with eye dilation, is recommended for those older than 60 because they are six times more likely to get glaucoma. In addition, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans while Hispanic populations, and people of Asian descent, also face increased risk of glaucoma.

Family history and individual medical conditions present other risk factors. Current medical findings indicate glaucoma may have a genetic link that causes members of some families to be unusually susceptible to the disease. Medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or even nearsightedness also can increase a person’s risk. Major eye injuries may cause glaucoma to occur immediately after the injury or even years later.

If you are at risk for glaucoma, or experiencing any of its symptoms, the physicians of Wheaton Eye Clinic urge you to get a glaucoma screening.