During Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, the American Academy of Ophthalmology advises the public that the best defense against developing glaucoma-related blindness is by having routine, comprehensive eye exams. Our glaucoma specialists are commonly asked, “Can I go blind from Glaucoma?”. The short answer is yes, but it can be avoided.

Glaucoma can cause blindness, but loss of vision can be prevented. If Glaucoma is diagnosed at an early stage, the damage can be controlled. If you don’t treat it at the right time, it can lead to loss of peripheral vision first and then the central vision, which may result in complete blindness. Sadly, this vision loss can occur over time, without the individual realizing it.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of vision-threatening eye diseases that can cause damage to the nerve fibers within the optic nerve, that connect to the brain at the back of the eye. This progressive and irreversible damage to the optic nerve sadly makes this one of the leading causes of vision loss. The vision loss maybe temporary or permanent, if not treated properly. The most common form of damage, in Glaucoma, occurs by a change in the eye’s internal fluid pressure, also termed as intraocular pressure (IOP). But it does not stop here; there have been cases where people with Glaucoma have experienced optic nerve damage even when their eye pressure was normal. That is why Glaucoma is often referred to as ‘A group of related conditions,’ because there are a lot of variances and differences in causes and types.

How is Glaucoma detected?

The go-to test for Glaucoma is a simple and painless procedure called Tonometry. It measures the internal pressure of your eye, so the eye doctor can identify any alarming changes. Other common forms of tests used to diagnose Glaucoma include checking your eyesight and the health of the optic nerve, with regular eye exams.

What are some misconceptions about Glaucoma?

Minnesota Eye Consultants Glaucoma Specialist, Dr. Patrick Riedel, says there are three things patients should know about Glaucoma:

  1. “Glaucoma is NOT high eye pressure. Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve that can lead to blindness.
  2. High eye pressure is a risk factor for developing glaucoma, but it is NOT the disease in and of itself.
  3. The confusion comes from the fact the only thing proven to slow down or stop the progression of glaucoma is lowering of the eye pressure (which we do with eye drop medications, lasers, and surgeries).”

Can Glaucoma be prevented?

The key to preventing serious vision loss or blindness is early detection. An annual fully dilated eye examination is highly recommended and could uncover this disease before symptoms even occur. Although vision loss can’t be recovered, Minnesota Eye Consultants is fortunate to have plenty of treatment options available to help halt the progression of this disease and avoid further vision damage.

If you have experienced a loss of peripheral vision or are having other difficulties with your vision, schedule a complete eye examination with your primary eye doctor.

Sources: American Academy of Ophthalmology, National Eye Institute