In honor of Glaucoma Awareness Month, Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island (OCLI) is encouraging Long Islanders to have a thorough eye examination by their eye doctor to screen for glaucoma. Glaucoma, one of the world’s leading causes of vision loss and blindness, is an eye disease that slowly and painlessly steals away sight. It affects nearly 70 million people, including an estimated 2.2 million Americans ages 40 and older. “Glaucoma is often referred to as the ‘sneak thief of sight’ because it has no symptoms—it does not make your eyes red or cause pain,” explains Dr. Valerie Trubnik of OCLI’s Lynbrook office. “Half of the people who have glaucoma don’t know that they have the disease and are not aware that they are going blind.”
The cause of glaucoma is unknown, but there are several risk factors that increase your risk of developing glaucoma. These include high eye pressure (called intraocular pressure, or IOP), being of African-American or Hispanic descent, and having a family history of glaucoma. Senior citizens are also at risk for developing glaucoma. Anyone with any of these risk factors and over 40 should get regular eye examinations to look for glaucoma.
Glaucoma damages vision by destroying the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, and carries visual information to your brain for processing. When the optic nerve is damaged from glaucoma, you lose your vision. Your peripheral vision—or side vision—is lost first. If the glaucoma remains untreated, the vision loss creeps in toward the center, first causing tunnel vision, and then, eventually, blindness.
Luckily, there are new treatment options available to combat glaucoma, when it is detected. Talk to your eye doctor about glaucoma and to see if you are at risk. With glaucoma, better late than never, is not an option.