What is Glaucoma?

(This blog post was written by Sarah Johnson, Marketing Director for Divine Home Care.)

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month and I wanted to take the opportunity to touch on this serious topic. Glaucoma is caused by damage to the eye’s optic nerve and will cause vision loss or blindness. There is no cure for this disease once vision is lost. However, by getting regular eye exams, you can help protect your eye sight and slow the progression of glaucoma if you’re already affected by it. It is the leading cause of preventable blindness, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

This is me after my first surgery to remove the cataract.

This is me after my first surgery to remove the cataract.

Glaucoma is a really important topic to me personally because I am monitored regularly for the disease. I was born with a congenital cataract (a clouding of the lens) in my right eye. I had the cataract removed when I was two years old, wore a bright blue contact for five years and spent a few years wearing a patch over my “good” eye to strengthen my “bad” eye. The patch was the hardest part for both my parents and myself. When I was seven, I had a lens implant surgery and have regular eye exams to make sure the implant is where it should be and more importantly, to monitor the inner pressure of my eye (IOP).

Preparation for my lens implant surgery.

Preparation for my lens implant surgery.

A brief overview of our eye anatomy (stay with me):

The front part of our eye has fluid that flows through the pupil and absorbs in the bloodstream. The eye’s drainage system helps this process. When it is working properly, we have normal eye pressure, but when the drainage system becomes clogged, fluid builds up in the eye and the pressure increases. Normal eye pressure is different for everyone. When eye pressure is at a level that is higher than the individual can tolerate, the optic nerve can be damaged, causing glaucoma. Therefore, high eye pressure can be a serious risk factor for glaucoma. Another risk factor is high blood pressure. Divine Home Care works hard to educate people on the importance of heart health and this is another reason why. Other risk factors of glaucoma include:

  • African Americans: glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African Americans than Caucasians
  • People over the age of 60, especially if you are Hispanic
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Trauma to the eye: most common cause is sports-related injuries

What you can do:

Know the risk factors – do you fit into one of the categories above? If so, schedule an eye exam right away. Because glaucoma usually doesn’t have any symptoms, early detection by your eye doctor is critical. There are many different tests that can be done to diagnose the disease. Whenever I visit my eye doctor, she measures my inner eye pressure – it is a totally painless test. Make your eye health a priority in 2014 and schedule an appointment with your eye doctor today!