Glaucoma is an eye disease in which increased pressure causes progressive, permanent vision loss and even blindness. Unfortunately, many misconceptions about the disease can leave you misinformed. Below we sort fact from fiction by debunking 6 of the most common glaucoma myths.
Glaucoma Facts vs. Myths
MYTH 1: Glaucoma is a single disease
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases; the most common ones are open-angle glaucoma (OAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG).
In open-angle glaucoma, the drainage structure in your eye (called the trabecular meshwork) doesn’t allow the fluid inside the eye to flow out as it should, causing an increase in internal ocular pressure that damages the optic nerve. OAG develops slowly, and usually by the time people perceive symptoms, such as peripheral vision loss, they already have optic nerve damage.
In angle-closure glaucoma, the eye doesn’t drain fluid as it should because the the space between your iris and cornea becomes too narrow (the area leading to the trabecular meshwork), causing increased eye pressure. This pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. ACG can occur suddenly or gradually.
MYTH 2: Only the elderly suffer from glaucoma
Although it’s true that people over 60 are at a greater risk of developing open-angle glaucoma compared to people in their 40s, there are other types of glaucoma that can affect people aged 20 to 50 and even young infants (due to abnormal ocular development).
In addition to age, those with a higher risk of developing glaucoma include:
- African Americans and Hispanics
- Individuals with a family history of glaucoma
- Patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or sickle cell anemia
- Those who have previously sustained an eye injury
- People taking steroid medications over the long term
MYTH 3: Glaucoma shows symptoms early on
The most common form of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, shows virtually no signs or symptoms until its later stages when vision loss sets in. Despite what people may think, the increased eye pressure causes no pain. And since peripheral vision is the first to go, you may not recognize vision loss until your vision has become significantly impaired. The only way to detect glaucoma is to undergo a comprehensive eye exam.
MYTH 4: Nothing can be done once you have glaucoma
While there's currently no cure for glaucoma, many effective treatment options exist: eye drops, oral medications, as well as laser and surgical procedures that can help slow glaucoma progression. Each treatment option is used to get the fluid to flow properly within of the eye, reducing pressure inside the eye and decreasing damage to the optic nerve.
MYTH 5: Testing for glaucoma is painful
Actually, testing for glaucoma is practically painless. At Petrolia Optometry we measure eye pressure with an iCare tonometer while the cornea is numbed with eye drops. When the anesthetic eye drop is inserted into the eye there may be a slight stinging sensation for a few seconds. Then the eye doctor uses a hand held device to quickly take 6 measurements of eye pressure each eye with no puff of air! In addition visual field testing and retinal imaging (photos) may also be used both of which are also painless.
MYTH 6: You can’t prevent glaucoma
Regular eye exams are the only way to prevent blindness or significant vision loss from glaucoma if the disease is diagnosed and treated in the early stages. That's why routine comprehensive eye exams which include glaucoma testing are so important.
Getting your eyes checked regularly can ensure that any existing eye problems are detected early enough to prevent or slow ocular damage. Contact Petrolia Optometry in Petrolia ON to book your comprehensive eye exam today!