Few things are as precious to us as our sight. A huge part of our day-to-day experience depends on our vision, which is why blindness consistently ranks among the most feared medical conditions. That’s why it’s critical for anyone who suffers from diabetes to understand that they’re also at a much higher risk for glaucoma. Because glaucoma shows virtually no warning signs until significant irreversible damage is done, early diagnosis and treatment is the only way to ensure the health of your eyesight.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that diminish your sight without warning. It is caused by a buildup of fluid in the eye. That buildup causes pressure on the optic nerve, which leads to permanent nerve damage and vision loss. In America, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness. About one in ten people who suffer from glaucoma and receive treatment will still lose vision. While lost vision can’t be recovered, further vision loss can typically be halted with treatment
The most common type of glaucoma is called open angle glaucoma, which is caused by inefficient fluid drainage in the eye, and generally responds very well to early treatment. There are a number of eye diseases associated with diabetes, including neovascular glaucoma, but open angle glaucoma is by far the most common.
Risk Factors for Glaucoma
One study from the Michigan Kellogg Eye Center found that diabetic people are about 35% more likely to suffer from glaucoma. But there are many more risk factors to be aware of, including being over the age of 60, having a family history of glaucoma, having a previous serious eye injury, long-term corticosteroid use, estrogen deficiency, suffering from another common eye condition, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
Although these risk factors can tell us who is most likely to suffer from glaucoma, it’s important to remember that anyone can fall prey to this serious disease, including newborn babies at birth. To make glaucoma even more threatening, it presents with almost no symptoms. Because the loss of sight caused by glaucoma wears away at our peripheral vision first, many people unconsciously compensate by turning their head, and fail to recognize lost vision until substantial damage has been done.
It’s estimated that there are 3 million people who suffer from glaucoma in America, and about half of those people are unaware of their condition. Because glaucoma typically has no symptoms besides gradual vision loss, the best thing you can do to reduce your risk is to schedule a regular eye exam. Regular exams can help ensure that glaucoma is caught early. Many types of glaucoma are easy to treat, but early treatment is paramount to preserving your vision. So what are you waiting for? If you or one of your loved one may be at risk, talk to your doctor about scheduling an eye exam.