Glaucoma is a complicated disease in which over time, damage to the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. It is estimated that about three million Americans have glaucoma, but only about half of them know that they have this disease. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old however, blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented if it is treated early. When glaucoma develops, usually you don’t have any early symptoms and the disease progresses slowly. If detected early, treatment may be able to help preserve your vision.
The signs and symptoms of glaucoma vary depending on the type and stage of your condition. For example:
Open-angle glaucoma (slow or gradual glaucoma)
Patchy blind spots in your side (peripheral) or central vision, frequently in both eyes
Tunnel vision in the advanced stages
Acute angle-closure glaucoma (occurs suddenly)
Nausea and vomiting
Halos around lights
If left untreated, glaucoma will eventually cause blindness. Even with treatment, about 15 percent of people with glaucoma become blind in at least one eye within 20 years. It is best to get a glaucoma screening every four years beginning at age 40, or every 2 years if you’re over 65 and at high risk.
Below are signs or symptoms to be aware of:
Having high internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure)
Being over age 60
Being black or Hispanic
Having a family history of the condition
Having certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia
Having certain eye conditions, such as nearsightedness
Having had an eye injury or certain types of eye surgery
Early estrogen deficiency, such as can occur after removal of both ovaries (bilateral oophorectomy) before age 43
Taking corticosteroid medications, especially eyedrops, for a long time
This disease can occur at any age but is more common in adults. The effect is so gradual that you may not notice a change in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage. Vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be recovered so it is important to have regular eye exams that include measurements of your eye pressure. If glaucoma is recognized early, vision loss can be slowed or prevented. If you have the condition, you’ll generally need treatment for the rest of your life.