Doctors Warn: Glaucoma Has No Early Symptoms

Harrisburg, PA – Glaucoma is an eye disease that affects more than 2.7 million Americans aged 40 and older. Unfortunately, there are usually no early symptoms of glaucoma and the disease progresses so gradually that patients often don’t realize they have the disease until their vision has been permanently damaged. During Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, the Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology is encouraging Pennsylvania residents to know their risk factors and get routine eye exams in order to save their sight.

Patients with glaucoma may have elevated levels of eye pressure due to deficient flow of the eye’s fluid. Over time, this increased eye pressure damages the optic nerve, which is responsible for sending signals from the retina to the brain. Glaucoma patients typically lose their peripheral vision first, then develop blind spots and eventually go blind without proper treatment.

Fortunately, most vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented with early detection, physician intervention and a regimen of daily, medicated eye drops.

“With ongoing care, we can significantly slow glaucoma’s progression and minimize vision loss for our patients,” said Joanna Fisher, MD, the PAO Secretary of Public and Professional Information. “The trick is to catch and treat glaucoma as early as possible and take your medication as prescribed by your ophthalmologist, because once vision is lost to glaucoma, it cannot be restored.”

African Americans, U.S. Hispanics, and those who have a family history of glaucoma are at greater risk for developing glaucoma and should closely monitor their eye health. Other risk factors include aging, nearsightedness, farsightedness, previous eye injuries, steroid use, and health conditions such as migraines, diabetes, and low blood pressure.

To ensure early diagnosis and prevent vision loss from glaucoma, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people with any of these risk factors visit an ophthalmologist – an eye medical doctor – to get a complete exam, learn more about their specific risks, and find out how often they will need check-ups. Those with no eye disease symptoms or risk factors should get a baseline screening at age 40, when signs of eye disease and vision changes may start to occur.

For more information on glaucoma, visit www.geteyesmart.org. Find an Eye M.D. in your area by visiting www.paeyemds.org.

The Pennsylvania Academy of Ophthalmology has been working to preserve and protect vision and eye health for Pennsylvania’s citizens since 1943. With member physicians throughout the Commonwealth, the PAO strives to be the voice of ophthalmology; making efforts to ensure quality eye care on the legislative and regulatory fronts, while building and maintaining relationships with major insurance carriers within the state.