Glaucoma is an eye disease which causes progressive, permanent vision loss, including potential blindness. Unfortunately, many misconceptions exist about the disease. Let's sort fact from fiction by debunking 5 of the most common glaucoma myths.
Glaucoma Facts vs. Myths
MYTH 1: Glaucoma is only caused by abnormally elevated eye pressure.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that all share one common fact: progressive damage to the optic nerve that is permanent. The most common type is open-angle glaucoma (OAG). 50% of open-angle glaucoma patients have 'normal' eye pressure and can be overlooked without specialized testing. Angle-closure glaucoma is much more rare, but much more dangerous.
Open-angle glaucoma develops slowly, and usually by the time people perceive symptoms, such as peripheral vision loss, they already have severe optic nerve damage.
In angle-closure glaucoma, the eye doesn’t drain fluid as it should because the drainage channel between your iris and cornea becomes too narrow or closes suddenly, causing increased eye pressure. The elevated eye pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. A sudden increase in eye pressure has the hallmark symptoms of eye pain, redness, and cloudy vision - all at the same time. This is an absolute eye emergency, potentially causing blindness within hours!
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 Canadians and Hispanics
- Individuals with a family history of glaucoma
- A history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or sickle cell anemia
- Those who have previously sustained an eye injury
- Long-term use of steroid medication.
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 gradual increase in 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 reduce the pressure inside the eye and decrease damage to the optic nerve.
MYTH 5: You can’t prevent glaucoma
Regular eye exams are the only way to diagnose glaucoma as ealry as possible. Significant vision loss can be prevented if the disease is treated in the early stages. That's why routine comprehensive eye exams which include specialized glaucoma testing are so important. New technology such as OCT imaging (optical coherence tomography) can detect glaucoma-type changes many years before the damage to the optic nerve is observed through a traditional eye exam.
Contact Dolman Eyecare Centre in New Hamburg to book your comprehensive eye exam today!