Also known as the “silent thief of the night”, glaucoma is an eye disease that can quietly cause progressive and permanent vision loss eye disease The eye doctors at Foresight Eyecare take the time to assess for the various forms of glaucoma when you have an eye exam. Below we sort fact from fiction by debunking 6 of the most common glaucoma myths.
Glaucoma Facts vs. Fiction
MYTH 1: Glaucoma is a single disease
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases; the most common ones are primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG).
In open-angle glaucoma, the drainage structure in your eye (called the trabecular meshwork) doesn’t allow the fluid inside the eye to flow out as it should, causing an increase in internal ocular pressure that damages the optic nerve. POAG develops slowly, and usually by the time people perceive symptoms, such as peripheral vision loss, significant optic nerve damage has already occurred. There is no pain associated with this.
In angle-closure glaucoma, the eye doesn’t drain fluid as it should because the drainage channels between your iris and cornea becomes too narrow, causing increased eye pressure. This pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. ACG can cause headache, pain around the eye and blurry or cloudy vision.
MYTH 2: Only the elderly suffer from glaucoma
Although it’s true that people over 60 are at a greater risk of developing open-angle glaucoma compared to people in their 40s, there are other types of glaucoma that can affect people aged 20 to 50 and even young infants (due to abnormal ocular development).
In addition to age, those with a higher risk of developing glaucoma include:
- African Americans and Hispanics
- Individuals with a family history of glaucoma
- Patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or sickle cell anemia
- Those who have previously sustained an eye injury
- People taking steroid medications over the long term
MYTH 3: Glaucoma shows symptoms early on
The most common form of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, shows virtually no signs or symptoms until its later stages when vision loss sets in. Having 20/20 vision does NOT mean that you do not have glaucoma. Despite what people may think, the increased eye pressure causes no pain. And since peripheral vision is the first to go, you may not recognize vision loss until your vision has become significantly impaired. The only way to detect glaucoma is to undergo a comprehensive eye exam.
MYTH 4: Nothing can be done once you have glaucoma
While there’s currently no cure for glaucoma, many effective treatment options exist: eye drops, oral medications, as well as laser and surgical procedures that can help slow glaucoma progression. Each treatment option is used to get the fluid to flow properly out of the eye, reducing pressure inside the eye and decreasing damage to the optic nerve.
MYTH 5: Testing for glaucoma is painful
Actually, testing for glaucoma is practically painless. One of the tests includes a non-contact device that blows a gentle puff of air into each eye to test the intraocular pressure. The sound of the puff may be startling, but it’s over in a second and is painless. Other methods of checking intraocular pressure are also used involving gentle touch to the cornea. There are several forms of applanation tonometry. An anesthetic eye drop may be inserted into each eye, and your eye doctor will then use a device to quickly and gently touch the cornea to precisely measure intraocular pressure. The most accurate of all involve quantifying any changes over time which involve visual field testing and OCT (optical coherence tomography), non-invasive imaging, both of which are also painless.
MYTH 6: You can’t prevent glaucoma
Regular eye exams are the only way to prevent glaucoma, as blindness or significant vision loss CAN BE PREVENTED if the disease is diagnosed and treated in the early stages. That’s why routine comprehensive eye exams which include glaucoma testing are so important.
Getting your eyes checked regularly can ensure that any existing eye problems are detected early enough to prevent or slow ocular damage. Contact Foresight Eyecare in Country Hills community of northwest Calgary to book your comprehensive eye exam today!