Glaucoma is a degenerative eye disease (of which there are several different forms) that can completely rob you of your vision. It affects around 3-million Americans, and is a leading cause of blindness. However, the good news is it can be treated.
While it affects so many people, apparently most people who have glaucoma aren’t aware of it, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. How do you know? In time for National Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, here are six telltale signs that should prompt you to see a physician or optometrist…
1. Risk Factors
One major form of glaucoma called “open-angle” (which is actually the most common type) typically doesn’t have any warning signs, explains the Glaucoma Research Foundation. The initial loss of sight in this form of the disease is from the peripheral vision, or the “fringes” of what you can see from the sides, so you may not notice.
However, you should regularly see your eye doctor for checkups, especially if you fall into higher risk categories—if your parents had the disease, you have an African American or Latino background, or if you have diabetes or a cardiovascular disease, adds the source.
2. Ocular Hypertension
Glaucoma causes your eye pressure to increase due to fluid buildup, coupled by your eye’s inability to regulate the internal pressure. This causes parts of your eye to expand, pushing against the delicate optic nerve and leading to vision problems (or loss).
It’s possible to have no obvious signs of glaucoma while also showing higher-pressure readings, making you a “glaucoma suspect,” notes the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Your doctor or eye care professional will be able to determine eye pressure quickly with that little blast of air during a routine exam.
3. Eye and Head Pain
If you’re noticing some sudden sharp pangs of pain in your eyes, or you have a bad headache that seems to have come out of nowhere, you should keep a close eye on it (so to speak). These may be symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma, another common form of the disease.
AllAboutVision.com notes these sudden symptoms (which also can include nausea and vomiting) can warrant a trip to the emergency room, and the “attacks” can last a few hours. Each time you have one of these pain episodes, it can further erode your vision, adds the source.
4. Halos around Lights
The same source notes that angle-closure glaucoma can yield more obvious signs, namely those that directly affect your ability to see clearly. You may start to notice halos around lights (or overall haziness), as you might have when your eyeglasses are smudged.
You may also have some noticeable vision loss—don’t ignore these signs and wish they’d go away. They need to be handled by an eye care professional to slow the progression. As mentioned earlier, vision loss may be a sign that you’re already in an advanced stage of another form of the disease.
5. Hazy Eyes
While glaucoma can cause your vision to be hazy, you may also be able to tell whether someone is developing glaucoma by a telltale hazy appearance of their eyes, according to WebMD.
This particular symptom is apparently more common in infants (and yes, that means infants can get glaucoma too, although it’s quite rare), adds the source. A cloudy cornea is a major warning sign of childhood glaucoma. While we’re on the subject of child glaucoma, also be on the lookout for overly teary eyes (when the child isn’t crying), and light sensitivity.
6. Redness of the Eyes
Your eyes can become red and enflamed for a number of reasons, but one of these reasons could be related to glaucoma. Redness can be the result of a rise in pressure of the eye, and not from other obvious causes like rubbing your eyes or having irritants come in contact with your eye.
The Glaucoma Foundation notes that red eyes from glaucoma will often be accompanied by some of the symptoms we described earlier—namely pain, nausea and vomiting. Along with redness, your eye may actually swell, adds the source. Get yourself emergency care quickly if you have these symptoms, and be sure to see your eye doctor every 2-years (or every year if you’re aged 61-and older).