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The Best Way to Catch Glaucoma Early? Eye Exams

January 24, 2023

Just like routine screenings help spot cancer early enough to be treated, regular eye exams can catch glaucoma before serious damage or blindness. Glaucoma – which includes several eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness – typically comes with no symptoms to warn of the potential damage being done to the eye, says Geoffrey Emerick, MD, an ophthalmologist with Hartford Hospital’s Eye Surgery Center. > Interested in an eye exam? Connect with Hartford Hospital's Eye Surgery Center

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness, with more than 3 million people in the United States with glaucoma. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. If the eye’s internal drainage system isn’t releasing fluid properly, pressure builds inside the eye to cause glaucoma. The pressure can cause nerves in the back of the eye to die, resulting in blind spots which, over time, can cause blurry, patchy, foggy vision. Although loss of vision due to glaucoma is not reversible, good treatments can stop further damage. This is why eye exams are so important, Dr. Emerick says. During the exam, doctors check eye pressure, test vision and examine the optic nerve for damage to catch glaucoma before there is any vision loss. > Want more health news? Text StartHere to 85209 to sign up for text alerts

Who is at risk?

Those at higher risk for glaucoma include people who:
  • Are over 60 years old
  • Are of African, Asian or Hispanic descent
  • Have relatives with glaucoma
  • Are very nearsighted (myopic) or far-sighted (hyperopic)
“If you have siblings or a parent with glaucoma, you should start getting eye exams earlier, at least by age 40, or even younger depending on your family history,” Dr. Emerick says.

Acute symptoms

One type of glaucoma - angle-closure glaucoma - can be more of an emergency, he adds. In this type, the iris blocks the eye’s drainage angle and can cause pressure to rise quickly and dangerously. Signs of acute-angle glaucoma include:
  • Sudden blurry vision
  • Severe eye pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Seeing halos or rainbow rings around lights
If you suffer from any of these symptoms, call an ophthalmologist immediately. And if not? You still might want to call - anyone over 40 should start considering regular eye exams.