An estimated 2.2 million Americans have some form of glaucoma, an eye condition that causes vision loss and can eventually lead to blindness. However, half of the people with glaucoma are not aware that they have the condition because they experience little to no symptoms. If you believe you are experiencing vision loss caused by glaucoma, New York City laser eye surgeon Dr. Sandra Belmont can help. Here, Dr. Belmont answers some of the most frequently asked questions about glaucoma.
Glaucoma occurs when the fluid inside the eye cannot properly pass through the eye’s drainage channel, or angle, causing pressure to build inside the eye. Dangerously high eye pressure can push against the optic nerve in the eye until nerve fibers are permanently damaged, leading to vision loss. If left untreated, blindness may occur.
There are two major types of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma and narrow-angle glaucoma. An estimated 90 percent of people with glaucoma have open-angle glaucoma, which occurs when the drainage channel has been damaged, leading to fluid accumulation and pressure in the eye. Open-angle glaucoma is painless and can gradually reduce a person’s peripheral vision without other symptoms. By the time someone does notice vision loss, permanent damage has been done and blindness may occur.
Narrow-angle glaucoma occurs when something blocks or covers the eye’s drainage channel. This rare form of glaucoma is characterized by sudden, painful symptoms such as eye pain, headaches, headaches, halos around lights, dilated pupils, vision loss, red eyes, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these symptoms, you’re advised to go to an emergency room immediately. These symptoms may last a couple of hours and can lead to blindness. People who have had an eye injury, an eye tumor or other eye conditions can develop narrow-angle glaucoma.
Often called the silent thief of sight, open-angle glaucoma is typically painless and has no symptoms until noticeable vision loss occurs. As mentioned above, narrow-angle glaucoma does have noticeable symptoms such as eye pain, and should be addressed immediately.
If you are over age 35, African-American, diabetic, extremely nearsighted, or have a family history of glaucoma, you are at higher risk for the eye condition.
Findings have shown that regular exercise can reduce your risk of developing glaucoma. One study conducted in the U.K. found that higher levels of cardiovascular exercise can lower the chances of reduced ocular perfusion pressure (OPP), which is the relationship between eye pressure and blood pressure. Reduced OPP has been found to be an important risk factor for glaucoma. Study participants who engaged in moderate physical exercise for 15 years prior to the study had 25 percent less risk of reduced OPP.
A healthy, balanced diet rich in vitamins, minerals and protein can also protect your eyesight and protect against other eye conditions such as cataracts and macular degeneration. Studies have also found smoking can increase the risk of glaucoma.
Treatment for glaucoma can involve laser eye surgery or medication, depending on the severity of the eye condition. Dr. Belmont performs several laser treatments for glaucoma that can minimize vision loss and prolong your eyesight.
If Dr. Belmont determines a patient has glaucoma in its early stages, she may prescribe eye drops and medication that work to lower eye pressure. However, because glaucoma is usually painless and produces few immediate symptoms, some patients may become careless with treatment medication and eye drops. Research shows failure to use prescribed glaucoma medication is a major reason for blindness caused by glaucoma.
While glaucoma has no cure, early detection can help minimize vision loss associated with the condition. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam with Dr. Belmont today by calling (212) 486-2020.