Glaucoma and Your Eyes
Who Gets Glaucoma?
Glaucoma most often occurs in adults over age 40, but it can also occur in young adults, children, and even infants. In African-Americans, glaucoma occurs more frequently and at an earlier age and with greater loss of vision.
You are at an increased risk of glaucoma if you:
- Are of African-American, Irish, Russian, Japanese, Hispanic, Inuit, or Scandinavian descent
- Are over age 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Have poor vision
- Have diabetes
- Take certain steroid medications, such as prednisone
- Have had trauma to the eye or eyes
What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
For most people, there are usually few or no symptoms of glaucoma. The first sign of glaucoma is often the loss of peripheral or side vision, which can go unnoticed until late in the disease. This is why glaucoma is often called the "sneak thief of vision."
Detecting glaucoma early is one reason you should have a complete exam with an eye specialist every one to two years. Occasionally, intraocular pressure can rise to severe levels. In these cases, sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision, or the appearance of halos around lights may occur.
If you have any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical care:
- Seeing halos around lights
- Vision loss
- Redness in the eye
- Eye that looks hazy (particularly in infants)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Pain in the eye
- Narrowing of vision (tunnel vision)
How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
To diagnose glaucoma, an eye doctor will test your vision and examine your eyes through dilated pupils. The eye exam typically focuses on the optic nerve, which has a particular appearance in glaucoma. In fact, photographs of the optic nerve can also be helpful to follow over time as the optic nerve appearance changes with the progression of the disease. The doctor will also perform a procedure called tonometry to check for eye pressure, and a visual field test, if necessary, to determine if there is loss of side vision. Glaucoma tests are painless and take very little time.