Take your vision seriously—even what you can’t see
No symptoms, no pain, no warning. Over 3 million Americans have it, yet only half of those know it. Sometimes, the loss is so gradual that if left unchecked, the result can be total blindness within a few years time. It’s incurable, and yet treatable. And it’s the leading cause of adult blindness in the United States. With treatment, doctors can now stop its progression at best, and at the minimum, slow progression significantly.
What is this frightening condition? Glaucoma.
It’s the New Year, and there is no better time than now to have an eye exam. Avoiding eye exams can have disastrous consequences, especially as you age. Glaucoma can sneak up on a person, and if you’re one with normally strong vision who avoids regular check ups, now is the time to consider the best ways to care for your vision.
Glaucoma occurs when increased pressure in the eye gradually damages the optic nerve, causing blind spots, loss of peripheral vision, and low vision. Although incurable, treatments can dramatically slow the permanent damage caused by this pressure. That’s why checkups can be life changing. A comprehensive eye exam can detect glaucoma, cataracts, and vision loss or changes in vision. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends vision checks every five to ten years for those under 40, and more frequently as you age.
Cataracts are another leading cause of blindness and are a clouding of the lens. Aging is the primary cause for most cataracts, although other causes include certain diseases, like diabetes, prolonged exposure to sunlight, and lifestyle behaviors like smoking and excessive alcohol use. The loss of vision with cataracts, like with glaucoma, can be very gradual. Cataracts can be detected by way of a visual acuity test, a dilated eye exam, and via tonometry, as with glaucoma.
In initial phases, cataracts can be treated with new eyewear, anti-glare sunglasses, brighter lighting, or magnifying glasses. Cataracts may also be treated with surgery, unlike glaucoma. Your doctor will be able to assess your cataracts and give you the best treatment options for you at the time of diagnosis. The important thing is to know whether your vision is diminishing, and why, so that you can make educated decisions about your eye health.
With both glaucoma and cataracts, the key is early diagnosis so that your optometrist or ophthalmologist can recommend the best treatment for you going forward. With both, the earliest stages of each condition may not come with severe symptoms. That’s why regular eye care and vision testing is critical. What are you waiting for? Start the New Year out right!