January is Glaucoma awareness month. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases where pressure builds up and damages the eye’s optic nerve; the optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers that connects the eye to the brain. There are several different types of glaucoma, but the two main are open-angle and angle-closure:
1. Open-angle glaucoma: the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time, causing an increase in internal eye pressure.
2. Acute angle-closure glaucoma: a rapid or sudden increase in pressure inside the eye.
Everyone is at risk for glaucoma, although some medical conditions, such as diabetes, have a higher risk of developing the disease. An important prevention step of glaucoma, and other eye related diseases, is having a dilated eye exam. A dilated eye exam is a comprehensive eye exam that allows your eye care professional to view the inside of your eye. Drops are placed in each eye to widen the pupil, which is the opening in the center of the colored part of the eye (the iris).
Dilating the pupil allows more light to enter the eye the same way opening a door allows light into a dark room. Once dilated, each eye is examined using a special magnifying lens that provides a clear view of important tissues at the back of the eye. This video from the National Eye Institute provides a comprehensive overview of the dilated eye exam.
The dilated eye exam is recommended one time a year but may be more frequent if something is noticed. If your vision is blurry and you go in to see if you need glasses, the exam you may receive to check this is different from this dilated eye exam.
If left untreated Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness. Often times there are no symptoms to warn you. Additionally, eye issues are not brought to the forefront during medical appointments, so you may not be thinking of this issue. For example, if you are having vision challenges while participating in your hobbies, it is your responsibility to be an advocate for yourself and let your healthcare professional know!
For people with diabetes, vision study trials have shown keeping glucose numbers in check as well as controlling blood pressure and cholesterol can reduce the progression and risk of vision challenges.
There is no cure for glaucoma so, if you are concerned about your eye health, talk with your health care provider.
1. National Eye Institute