Get Your Eyes Checked!
Glaucoma robs us of our eyesight usually without warning signs. Its most common form is called primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and occurs when the fluid within the eye very slowly builds up over time due to clogged drainage systems. This, in turn, causes pressure to increase which then permanently damages the optic nerve. And, that’s not good.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. It can occur at any age but is more common in older adults. People with POAG do not typically notice that their peripheral vision is degrading slightly, as most of their vision will stay sharp until late in the progression of the disease. In the later stages, patchy blind spots can be seen in both peripheral and central vision, but then it is too late. This is why regular eye exams are crucial. If increased pressure is detected your eye doctor can start preventative treatments that can save your vision.
Another, less common form is called an acute attack of angle-closure glaucoma. In this situation, sudden increased pressure can quickly damage the optic nerve.
Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma Symptoms:
Severe headache (can be mistaken for a migraine)
Nausea and vomiting
Seeing halos around lights
Sudden eye redness
If you experience any of these symptoms you should immediately be evaluated by an eye doctor or at the emergency room.
As primary glaucoma is a potentially blinding condition if left untreated, researchers are looking for better ways to control eye pressure. Standard treatment currently is medicated eye drops that must be administered daily. But, as glaucoma patients are commonly older and often are taking many medications, or have trouble paying for medications, faithful adherence to the daily eye drops can be a problem. For these reasons, new ways of getting medication into the eyes of patients would be welcomed news.
The Latest Scientific Advances
In February 2020, the Glaucoma Research Foundation will be hosting its annual Glaucoma 360 New Horizons Forum in San Francisco. One of the sessions will be discussing the topic of “New Medication Delivery Systems for Glaucoma.” Some of the new advancements and options being researched include:
- Sophisticated new gel drops
- Medicated polymer contact lenses, or other technologies that release a steady amount of medication over time
- Implants that release drug over longer periods, requiring less total amount of medication, thus fewer side effects
- Punctal (tear duct) plugs that release medication over time in a relatively non-invasive manner
- Microneedle-injection devices
Prevention – Self-care for Your Peepers
Regular comprehensive (yes, with dilation!) eye exams can help detect glaucoma and other eye disease in its early stages. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends:
- A comprehensive eye exam every five to 10 years if you’re under 40 years old
- Every two to four years if you’re 40 to 54 years old
- Every one to three years if you’re 55 to 64 years old
- Every one to two years if you’re older than 65
- Asking your health care provider if you are in a high-risk category and should have more frequent screenings
Take eye drops as prescribed, even though you have no symptoms. And always wear eye protection when using power tools or playing high-speed, enclosed court racquet sports. A severe eye injury can lead to glaucoma.