January is glaucoma awareness month! Many of the patients I encounter are unaware of glaucoma, how glaucoma is diagnosed, how glaucoma impacts your vision and the risk factors for glaucoma. Great news is there are health care professionals such as myself that are here to educate our community about glaucoma and the risk factors for glaucoma.
Lets begin by answering a simple question. What is glaucoma? There are various types of glaucoma but we will focus on the most common cause of glaucoma which is primary open angle glaucoma. Primary open angle glaucoma is an ischemic attack (lack of blood flow/oxygen) of the optic nerve due to increase intraocular pressure that results in the damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the direct connection of our brain to our eye. The optic nerve has nerve fibers that radiate throughout the eye that provides us vision. As the optic nerve gradually deteriorates, blind spots develop in your visual field, typically in you peripheral vision first.
About 70% of glaucoma cases are primary open angle. The cause of primary open angle glaucoma is typically idiopathic. Glaucoma is a silent disease and there is no way for you to know if you have the condition. The only way glaucoma can be diagnosed is by your eye care provider. This makes having a comprehensive eye exam extremely important. Below is a list of risk factors for glaucoma. The more risk factors you have increases the chances for you to eventually have glaucoma.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
If you are black or hispanic
Over the Age of 50.
Family history of glaucoma.
High intraocular pressure.
Large optic nerve cupping.
Asymmetric optic nerve cupping.
History of an injury to the eyes.
If you fall into three or more of these risk factors then you should be monitored for glaucoma on a yearly basis. The gold standard for monitoring glaucoma is a visual field, laser scan of your optic nerve, gonioscopy, pachymetry and monitoring your intraocular pressure. It is important to have your eyes examined on a yearly basis because you don't want this silent disease to creep up on you! You can read up more about glaucoma by clicking the button below.