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Glaucoma: Are You at Risk?

Getting regular eye exams could save your sight

A Veteran having an eye exam with his doctorGlaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. It's a slow and progressive disease that can lead to vision loss over a long period of time. Many people with glaucoma might not even know they have the disease.

The good news is that if glaucoma is detected and treated early, it can be slowed or stopped. That's why it's important to know if you're at risk. With regular eye exams, you can catch glaucoma before it becomes a problem.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a condition defined as optic nerve damage, most often caused when the fluid inside the eye doesn't drain correctly. As the fluid builds, eye pressure builds. This increase in eye pressure causes damage to your vision.

Types of Glaucoma

Glaucoma may affect the eye slowly and without pain. That's why most people with glaucoma don't know they have it. This makes getting regular eye exams just as important as other health exams. 

The two main types of glaucoma are:

  1. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. The increase in eye pressure doesn't happen fast and doesn't have symptoms. You can't feel the pressure building. With this pressure, you begin to have blind spots in your vision. Usually, starting with your side vision or the part of your vision closest to your nose. Without treatment, these blind spots can grow to cause complete blindness.

  2. Closed-angle glaucoma is less common and happens faster. It occurs when the fluid in your eye is suddenly blocked and cannot flow out of the eye. You may notice blurred vision and rainbow halos around lights. Pressure can build quickly, causing eye pain, headache or nausea, and vomiting. If you don't treat closed-angle glaucoma right away, blindness can start quickly.

What puts you at risk?

Since the causes of glaucoma are unknown, anyone can get it. But some people have higher risks of developing the disease. You're at higher risk if you:

  • Are over age 60

  • Are African American or Hispanic/Latino and over age 40

  • Have diabetes

  • Have high blood pressure

  • Have a family history of glaucoma

If you're at risk of developing glaucoma, talk to your eye doctor about receiving a comprehensive eye exam to screen and test for the disease.

Lower your risk by being healthy

A healthy lifestyle may help reduce your chances of developing glaucoma. This includes getting regular exercise, stopping smoking, and monitoring blood pressure to improve overall physical and mental well-being.

Eating certain foods may support eye health. These foods include:

You can't prevent glaucoma, but you can do things to help reduce your risks. If you notice a slow or sudden change in your vision, use the Secure Messaging feature (sign in required) to notify your health care team. Stay up-to-date with eye exams, and don't let glaucoma cause you to lose your sight.

Please vote in our unscientific poll. All responses are anonymous.

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Read More

Glaucoma - Why Veterans need regular eye exams (VAntage Point)

What is Glaucoma? (Veterans Health Library)

Updated January 26, 2021