Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight
Chronic glaucoma is often called "the silent thief of sight" because the disease progresses slowly and painlessly. Significant vision loss can occur without a warning sign that there is a problem. Glaucoma affects an estimated 3 million Americans, with 120,000 blind due to the condition. There are two major types of glaucoma: chronic open-angle and acute closed-angle glaucoma. Other variations include congenital glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma and secondary glaucoma.
About half of Americans with chronic open-angle glaucoma don't know they have it. Chronic glaucoma gradually reduces your peripheral vision and may result in significant peripheral and even central vision loss. Many patients first see a doctor after permanent damage has already occurred. Dr. Thompson reviewed the results of The Nurses Health Study with Kelly Eckerman's Health Watch on KMBC Channel 9. The study found that Individuals recently diagnosed with diabetes are at increased risk for developing glaucoma, especially those with more poorly controlled blood sugar levels.
Acute closed-angle glaucoma is less common and is typically associated with the sudden onset of symptoms such as eye pain, grayness of vision, halos around lights, a headache around the eye, and eye redness. “These signs may last for a few hours, or longer. Each attack can cause permanent damage and loss of vision” said Dr. Thompson.
Fortunately, with early detection, the progression of vision loss from glaucoma can be slowed or halted. In the last decade, advances in medical and surgical therapy have prevented vision loss from glaucoma. As we mature, our risk of developing glaucoma increases. Individuals with a family history of glaucoma are at an increased risk of developing the disease. African Americans are also at increased risk of developing glaucoma; however the disease is present in all racial groups. Early detection is critical to prevent vision loss from glaucoma. An annual eye examination can help reduce your risk of having undetected glaucoma. To learn more about glaucoma, you can visit the Glaucoma Research Foundation website or the glaucoma facts page at the National Eye Institute website.