Glaucoma is often called the "Silent thief of sight," and for good reason. Glaucoma is typically a painless, very gradual loss of sight. Essentially, the optic nerve (the cable that connects your eye to your brain) becomes damaged overtime due to higher pressure inside the eye as well as other factors. The eye is similar to a hydraulic system, constantly producing and draining fluid to nourish the inside of the cornea. Overtime the tiny contractions your iris makes over the surface of the lens will cause a release of a very minute amount of pigment which can slow down the outflow of fluid in the drainage structure of the eye. This is what leads to the increase in pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve.
If everyone came in for regular eye exams, we could eliminate vision loss from glaucoma. Our technology is so good at helping us diagnose the disease in the earliest stages we are able to start treatment and slow (or hopefully halt) the progression prior to any loss of vision occurring.
Lastly, I have to emphasize how sneaky glaucoma is. I've had many people come in over the years for their first eye exam because their vision has just started to decline and they've "always seen perfectly." As we begin the examination, the findings aren't adding up; minimal eyeglass prescription, yet they aren't seeing very well. We check the pressure, which might not be terribly high, but slightly above normal. I dilate their eyes and look at their optic nerve behind our microscope and try to hold in my sigh when I notice very little tissue remaining. Then the difficult part remains where I must discuss the expectations moving forward and why I'm not able to correct their vision because their optic nerve has eroded. This doesn't happen everyday, but it happens enough to give me pause and wonder why it occurs at all given our great access to eye care at a relatively affordable cost nearly everywhere in our country.
In short, don't put it off, get checked. Every 2 years if you're under 50, and then every year after that.
Ryan Schott, OD