Q: I know glaucoma can cause blindness, but because it does not hurt how would I know I have it?
A: You are right about the dangers of glaucoma, and it is also true that it does not cause any discomfort or blurry vision. It truly is silent. For starters, the four major risk factors are:
- Family history of glaucoma
- Any level or type of diabetes
- Hispanic and over age 65
- African American and over age 50
I should point out a common misconception…..people often think they would see a reduction in their side vision, peripheral vision as we call it. This is not at all true. The earliest defects in vision occur in our central 30 degrees of sight, and typically so subtle you will never notice until a large area is totally missing……much too late!
The good news is that measuring the pressure in your eyes, a common indicator of glaucoma is totally painless. We no longer use that “dreaded air puff” test in our clinic. Even evaluating the optic nerve or early signs of damage can be done without “dilation” drops. We have advanced retinal imaging technology that allows us to detect very early damage to your optic nerve.
Lastly, treatment of glaucoma is very effective….usually an eyedrop medication, once or twice a day, can control your eye pressures and keep your optic nerve healthy. When caught early, most patients with glaucoma can use their eyedrops and never have any detectable damage to their eyesight.
The bottom line: see your eye doctor at least every two years, and more often if you are in one of those high risk categories. And please realize that just a screening for eye pressure alone is not adequate to find most glaucomas.