Glaucoma is the world’s second-leading cause of blindness, affecting 64 million people. Glaucoma refers to a family of eye diseases that are characterized by eye pressure that damage the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual messages to the brain. While most diseases have noticeable symptoms and warning signs, glaucoma can develop slowly and painlessly and can be quite difficult to diagnose.\
The two most common forms are primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG).
Open-angle glaucoma is often referred to as the "sneak thief of sight" because it has no symptoms until significant vision loss has occurred. Most people who have open-angle glaucoma feel completely normal and do notice any changes in their vision. This is because the condition develops slowly, and glaucoma affects peripheral vision first. At the point that a patient notices changes in their vision, the disease is often in an advanced stage.
Unlike open-angle glaucoma which develops slowly and painlessly, angle-closure glaucoma often happens suddenly. Symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma may include
- Hazy or blurred vision
- The appearance of rainbow-colored circles around bright lights
- Severe eye and head pain
- Nausea or vomiting (accompanying severe eye pain)
- Sudden sight loss
These symptoms should not be ignored, and the patient must seek medical attention immediately because permanent vision loss could occur.
The best defense against glaucoma is regular comprehensive eye exams. Because this disease can be challenging to detect and treat, you need the expertise of an eye doctor to diagnose it. Most comprehensive eye exams include tonometry, a test that measures the pressure inside your eye. If your eye pressure is elevated, your eye doctor can perform more tests to determine whether you have glaucoma. It is important to diagnose glaucoma in the early stages because glaucoma-related vision loss is irreversible. If it has been some time since you have had a comprehensive eye exam, contact your eye care professional to schedule a preventative check-up.