January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Many forms of glaucoma have no symptoms in their early stages, which is why glaucoma often is called “the silent thief of sight.” And the only way to accurately diagnose this thief in all its disguises is with a complete eye exam.

Screening that only checks eye pressure is often not adequate for a complete diagnosis. One type of glaucoma, called “normal tension glaucoma,” shows no abnormal eye pressure — but further testing can reveal other signs of glaucoma like blind spots in the field of vision or optic nerve damage.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the eye constantly produces aqueous humor — the clear fluid found in the front of the eye. As new fluid flows into your eye, the same amount should drain out via an area called the drainage angle. This process keeps the pressure inside the eye stable. But if the process isn’t working properly, fluid builds up, causing pressure inside the eye to rise, damaging the optic nerve.

There are many types and causes of glaucoma:

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, occurs gradually where the eye fluid does not drain properly. As eye pressure builds it damages the optic nerve. This type of glaucoma is painless and causes no vision changes at first.
  • Angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma happens when the iris is very close to the drainage angle in the eye. When the drainage angle gets completely blocked, pressure rises very quickly. This is a true medical emergency. Immediate intervention must occur to prevent blindness. Many people with angle-closure glaucoma develop it slowly. This is called chronic angle-closure glaucoma.

The Medical Center has Visiting Specialists in both Ophthalmology and Optometry. Click here to make an appointment or call 305-367-6702.

If you are experiencing impaired vision and would like to explore attending a Vision Support Group meeting, please email Dr. Luisa Bryan or phone her at 305-367-4965.