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An Overview of Glaucoma and How to Manage It

This January, the American Optometric Association has declared it Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is an eye disease that can cause damage to the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. As this condition cannot be reversed, it is important to learn about ways to diagnose, prevent, and treat glaucoma in order to protect your vision. In this blog post, we’ll discuss what glaucoma is, who is at risk for developing it, how it can be detected early on, and what the best treatment options are.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a multi-factorial eye disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve and subsequent visual field loss. When the intraocular pressure (IOP) within the eye rises too high for an individual’s specific tolerance level, it damages the optic nerve which causes vision loss. The first side effects of glaucoma are usually a gradual or rapid decrease in side vision or peripheral vision. The condition may go unnoticed until more serious signs appear such as difficulty reading or recognizing faces. Over time, if left untreated or undiagnosed these symptoms can become worse leading to total blindness.
Who is at Risk for Developing Glaucoma?
Those at risk for developing glaucoma include those with a family history of the disease, African Americans over the age of 40 who have higher rates of glaucoma than other ethnicities, people with diabetes or hypertension which increases IOP levels in the eyes, anyone over 60 whose risk increases with age due to weakening eye structures as well as individuals with extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness since their eyes are more prone to changes in IOP levels due to their elongated shape.  
How Can Glaucoma Be Detected Early On?
The best way to detect glaucoma early on is through regular comprehensive dilated eye exams performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist which includes measuring IOP levels as well as taking photos of the optic nerve head for comparison over time. Additionally, patients should keep updated records of any changes in their vision such as blurred vision and blind spots so that they can alert their doctor if needed during routine visits.                      
What Are The Best Treatment Options?
Treatment varies depending on each patient’s specific needs but typically involve utilizing prescription medications such as eyedrops that reduce IOP levels in addition to lifestyle modifications such as eating a healthy diet low in sugar and fat which can help reduce risks associated with diabetes and hypertension respectively. Surgery may also be necessary depending on how advanced the condition is including laser trabeculoplasty which uses lasers to open up clogged drainage channels within the eyes thus reducing IOP levels quickly or even implanting drainage tubes permanently into the eyes if other treatments fail.

Although there isn't currently a cure for glaucoma yet, early diagnosis and treatment through lifestyle modifications as well as prescription medications and/or surgery can help slow down its progression significantly thereby protecting your sight from further damage in order for you to continue living your life normally without worrying about losing your precious gift of sight! By scheduling regular comprehensive dilated eye exams throughout your life you will be able stay ahead of this potentially blinding disease allowing you peace of mind when it comes taking care of your vision health!