SHREVEPORT, La -- Glaucoma is a degenerative eye disease that can completely rob you of your vision. It affects around 3 million Americans and is a leading cause of blindness.
“Glaucoma is high pressure in the eye that damages the optic nerve,” said Dr. Chris Shelby from the WK Eye Institute.
There are different types of glaucoma. One type is acute angle-closure glaucoma.
“That can cause blurred vision, headaches, nausea, vomiting. When the pressure goes up really, really high really quickly, that can cause those symptoms,” said Shelby.
The most common type is open angle glaucoma.
“The reason we call it the primary open angle is because anatomically, everything looks normal,” said Shelby. “And so, either too much fluid is being produced or not enough fluid is being drained out.”
The major problem with this type is that you are not likely to know you have it, until it is too late.
“It’s generally painless. And it doesn't cause any visual problems until it's at the very end stages,” Shelby said.
Glaucoma can be diagnosed in children, but it is usually older people who develop it.
“We can see glaucoma in younger patients. And we call that juvenile glaucoma,” said Shelby. “But more commonly, it's above the age of 40 or 50 that we see it.”
Some people are at greater risk for developing glaucoma. Those with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and sickle cell anemia are at higher risk.
“If you have a family history of glaucoma, if you're African American, if anybody in your family has ever had glaucoma or has been on drops, you need to get seen, probably first in your early 20s. Even if you have perfect vision,” Shelby added.
Shelby says the key to saving your vision is early intervention through annual eye exams.
“There's really not a whole lot we can do with glaucoma once the damage is there. And so that's one of the reasons it's a good idea to get an eye screening just in general. Because you can have perfect vision, but have high pressure and not even know it," Shelby said.