Dr. Guy Eakin and Donald Zack, M.D., Ph.D.
In this audio presentation, Dr. Guy Eakin, Vice President of Scientific Affairs at the BrightFocus Foundation and Donald Zack, M.D., Ph.D., from Johns Hopkins University talk about the symptoms of the two most common forms of glaucoma. They discuss the importance of regular eye exams and early detection, especially for those at high risk. This information is designed for anyone who has glaucoma or is caring for a family member or friend who has this eye disease.
Dr. Guy Eakin: 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.
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.
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.