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Providers Weigh In: Regular Eye Checks are Crucial to Prevent Blindness

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damages the optic nerve. This condition is most often caused when the eye fluid doesn't circulate normally and accumulates in the front part of the eye building up pressure inside the eye. This increased pressure can injure the optic nerve and how it transmits images to the brain resulting in vision loss and blindness.

In some cases, glaucoma can also be triggered by severe eye infections, blockage of blood vessels in the eye, injuries and inflammatory conditions of the eye.  

Dr. Ahmad Aref

Ahmad Aref, BS, MD
Glaucoma/Cataract surgeon at UI Health

Most often, glaucoma shows no warning signs or symptoms. The damage is so gradual that the change in vision is most often not noticeable until the disease is its advanced stage. As much as 40% of vision can be lost before the person realizes. The first sign of the disease is usually the loss of peripheral or side vision. In some cases, sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision or seeing halos around lights, eye redness, nausea or vomiting may happen. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Glaucoma can occur to anyone. But, most often, adults over the age 40 develop it. Risk factors include:

  • African-American, Hispanic, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Inuit or Scandinavian descent
  • Over 40 years of age
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia
  • Certain eye conditions, such as nearsightedness
  •  Past trauma or injuries or certain types of surgery to the eye or eyes
  • Usage of certain steroid medications, like prednisone

Glaucoma is the leading cause for blindness in people over 60 years old. "Vision loss caused by glaucoma cannot be recovered. However, blindness from the disease can usually be halted if treatment is started early. Regular eye exams are essential to diagnose and control the disease effectively, and a host of new medical and surgical options are on the horizon" says Dr. Ahmad Aref, assistant professor and glaucoma/cataract surgeon at UI Health.

Eye examination may include tests that measure eye pressure, optic nerve damage, visual field test (to check for areas of vision loss), corneal thickness and drainage angle inspection.

Damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible. But, successfully lowering eye pressure can help delay or prevent further vision loss. Treatment options may include eye drops, laser treatment or surgery. Don't wait, get your eyes tested regularly to keep them healthy.

To learn more about the ophthalmologists at UI Health, click here.