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Early Detection is Key to Preventing Vision Loss from Glaucoma

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
Early Detection is Key to Preventing Vision Loss from Glaucoma

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. ATRIO Health Plans is supporting this initiative by increasing awareness about this potentially devastating eye disease. For example, did you know that:

  • More than 3 million Americans have glaucoma but only half are aware they have the disease.
  • In America, glaucoma is responsible for upwards of 12 percent of all cases of blindness.
  • Worldwide, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.

Glaucoma Basics

Glaucoma is an umbrella term for a group of diseases that can damage the eye's optic nerve. The optic nerve has an extremely important job, as it is charged with sending the brain electrical impulses that enable sight. There are two main forms of glaucoma – open-angle (the most common) and angle-closure.

Open-angle glaucoma is caused by high eye pressure. As eye pressure increases, peripheral vision can progressively become impaired. If this type of glaucoma goes undetected and untreated, blindness can result.

In the case of angle-closure glaucoma, the fluid that normally flows in and out of a small space at the front of the eye and keeps eye tissues healthy, is suddenly blocked. Angle-closure glaucoma can cause severe pain, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and the appearance of a rainbow halo around lights. This type of glaucoma is extremely serious and treatment should be sought immediately.

if detected early, glaucoma usually can be controlled and severe vision loss prevented. Unfortunately, glaucoma-caused vision loss cannot be restored.

Risk Factors

Although glaucoma can strike any person at any age, those in higher-risk categories include:

  • African Americans over age 40.
  • Everyone age 60 or older, especially those of Hispanic descent.
  • People with a family history of glaucoma.
  • Those who've had an eye injury.
  • Individuals who've been diagnosed with diabetes or hypertension.


The most effective means of diagnosing glaucoma is by an ophthalmologist conducting a comprehensive dilated eye exam in which eye drops are used to enlarge the pupils. This enables the ophthalmologist to peer inside the eye to check for signs of optic-nerve damage. A dilated eye exam is important because screening for eye pressure alone is not enough to detect glaucoma.


The frontline treatment for glaucoma generally is prescription eyedrops. These eyedrops are designed to decrease eye pressure by improving how fluid drains from the eye or by decreasing the amount of fluid produced by the eye.

If it's determined that eyedrops alone aren't sufficiently reducing eye pressure, the ophthalmologist may also prescribe an oral medication. Other treatment options include laser therapy or other surgical procedures.

Early detection and treatment are the most effective means of curbing glaucoma before the disease causes permanent vision loss. Individuals who are at higher risk for glaucoma should undergo a comprehensive dilated eye exam every one to two years. To protect your vision from other risk factors, follow your doctor’s instructions for managing diabetes and hypertension.