By Renea Dennison, Contributor
Since January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month I didn’t want the month to pass completely without talking about it. Many people have heard of glaucoma, but do not really know what it is. Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, resulting in reduced or complete loss of vision. Glaucoma is usually caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye, and can be gradual or sudden.
Your eye is lubricated by fluids which drain through a mesh type tissue at the angle where the iris meets the cornea. If you over produce fluids, if the mesh tissue doesn’t drain properly (gradual), or if the angle closes (sudden), the fluid builds pressure in your eye and causes injury to your optic nerve. This damage is not reversible so it is very important that you see your eye doctor regularly, especially after age 40. He or she will periodically examine the width of your angles and do pressure tests to check the fluids in your eyes.
A few years ago my optometrist noticed my angles were becoming more narrow over time. No one in my family had glaucoma so when he announced I had narrow angles I could only stare dumbfounded. Narrow angles? That was gibberish to me. Fortunately, he was able to explain things clearly and schedule me for laser surgery. This involved going to a specialist who momentarily shined a bright red light into my eye, at least, that’s what it felt like. The light was a laser that put a tiny hole into my iris which would allow fluid to drain even if my angles closed. A week later we repeated on the other eye. No pain and no fuss, and so far no one has been able to find the tiny hole.
Some of the risk factors for glaucoma include family history, eye injuries, being over age 60, and some medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and sickle cell anemia. The most common form of glaucoma gives no warning, so be careful and make sure you periodically see an optometrist even if you don’t wear glasses. Untreated, glaucoma causes blindness. Even with treatment, 15% of people with glaucoma will go blind in at least one eye within 20 years.
Like other health issues glaucoma has symptoms, but you must know what to look for. Here are some of the warning signs:
Open-angle glaucoma (more advanced)
- Patchy blind spots – peripheral or central vision
- Tunnel vision in the advanced stages
- Severe headache
- Eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Eye redness
- Halos around lights
Seek treatment immediately if you experience these warning signs. Remember, see your eye doctor as often as he or she recommends, especially after age 40. Your vision is precious. Protect it.
Century Health Solutions is a subsidiary of Stormont Vail Health, Topeka and provides free Medicare Educational Seminars. We are your local expert in Medicare insurance planning and will help you find the best option for your personal situation. Call us at 785-270-4593 with questions or to sign up for a free seminar. Our business hours are Monday-Friday, 8:00am-4:30pm.