The term “glaucoma” is used to describe several eye disorders which damage the optic nerve and can result in vision loss. While the condition is one of the most common causes of blindness, early treatment will help to slow or stop its progression and control symptoms.
But who, exactly, is at risk for glaucoma, and what can be done to take a preemptive strike against it?
Glaucoma Risk Factors
There are several types of glaucoma, some of which have known risk factors. In most cases, glaucoma results from optic nerve damage related to increased pressure, caused by too much fluid in the eye, or poor fluid drainage. For example, babies can be born with glaucoma due to problems with eye development in the womb that may have blocked natural drainage. Other conditions that damage circulation, such as high blood pressure, may also cause reduced blood flow and affect your eye health.
In addition to circulatory issues, some other important risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Being older than 55
- A family history of glaucoma
- Medical conditions such as migraines, diabetes, and sickle cell anemia
- Thin corneas
- Use of corticosteroids, especially in eye drops
- Extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness
- Being of Black, Asian, or Hispanic heritage
- Previous eye trauma
While having the factors above could increase your risk, keep in mind that glaucoma can also develop in people with no known risk factors, and is why an annual eye exam with your doctor is important for early detection. Keeping up healthy fitness and nutrition routines can also help your circulatory system — and your eyes.
What to Do If You Have Risk Factors for Glaucoma
Glaucoma can begin to damage your eyesight even before you notice symptoms. For this reason, everyone should begin having glaucoma screenings by the age of 40. But if you’re experiencing any earlier eye changes or have identified risk factors, it may be worthwhile to have screenings even sooner.
The good news is that eye doctors can look for changes in your eye caused by glaucoma during a comprehensive eye exam.
To test for signs of glaucoma, eye doctors will:
- Measure the pressure in your eye
- Assess your eye’s drainage angle
- Check your optic nerve for any signs of damage
- Assess your peripheral vision
- Measure your cornea’s thickness
- Measure your optic nerve
How Glaucoma is Treated
While it can be unsettling to find out that signs of glaucoma are present, starting treatment right away is the best course of action to take. Damage caused by glaucoma can’t be reversed, but treatments can stop your vision from worsening. Available treatments include:
- Medicines to reduce pressure in the eye and prevent further damage to the optic nerve, including prescription eye drops
- In-office procedures such as laser treatments to drain fluid and reduce eye pressure
- Surgical approaches to drain pressure from the eye, if needed
Whether you’d like to discuss your risk factors for eye diseases like glaucoma or you’re simply due for your annual exam, turn to Eye Consultants of Atlanta for comprehensive eye care at any age. To schedule an appointment with one of our award-winning physicians, call 404-351-2220 or fill out our online request form.