Dr. Guy Eakin: Hi! I'm Dr. Guy Eakin, Vice President of Scientific Affairs for the BrightFocus Foundation. Today I'm going to talk about glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and ultimately blindness.
Glaucoma normally develops gradually with no real symptoms to warn of its presence. For this reason, it's often called the sneak thief of sight. Experts estimate that half of those affected by glaucoma may not even know that they have it. This is because there are normally no symptoms during the early stages of the disease. Therefore, those at a higher risk for developing glaucoma should have their eyes examined more frequently.
Paula Ernst: I've been having some kind of light disturbance with my eyes. So I made an appointment with the doctor and I was concerned it might be something related to stroke or something like that. So I went with that and they did finally decide that it was just that light sensitivity that you get prior to a migraine. So that I wasn't getting the headaches, but I was getting the lights. So that's they diagnosed that as a migraine related eye disturbance, but then also did the eye pressures and discovered the glaucoma.
Dr. Guy Eakin: If glaucoma is left untreated or undiagnosed, eventually the optic nerve can be damaged enough that the patient may notice vision changes. The first noticeable sign is usually this loss of peripheral or side vision. Blurry vision or difficulty reading are typically signs that indicate the needs for glasses, the development of cataracts or possibly other eye diseases.
For glaucoma, by the time peripheral vision is beginning to be lost, permanent damage to the optic nerve has been done. While there is currently no cure for glaucoma, and the vision loss can not be restored, treatments are focused on preventing any further loss of vision.
This is the case for open-angle, normal tension, and chronic closed-angle glaucoma. The exceptions are types of glaucoma such as acute closed-angle glaucoma. This disease comes on suddenly and does exhibit significant symptoms including pain, nausea, blurred vision, and sometimes even color halos around lights. If you or someone close to you is experiencing these symptoms, treatments should be started immediately.
Dr. Donald Zack: So usually patients don't know they have glaucoma. If they notice they have a change in their vision, that's bad, because that means they have very advance glaucoma. Most people with early glaucoma, and that's what we want to detect it, really don't know they have it. So number one, it's important to go see your eye doctor. So you have a chance of being diagnosed with glaucoma. Particularly, if you're at high risk.
High risk individuals are people who are a little bit older, people have a family history, meaning they have a relative with glaucoma, or people with certain racial and ethnic groups.
Dr. Guy Eakin: Your eye care professional will advise you how often to schedule your appointments. The regularity of your visits will depend on your particular level of risk for the disease as well as the disease type and the rate of progression of the disease.
Generally speaking, you should have your eyes examined at least every 1-2 years and possibly more often if your doctor is concerned about you developing glaucoma in the future. To learn more about glaucoma, check out the other videos in this series including how to diagnose glaucoma.