Learning the Symptoms of Glaucoma for National Glaucoma Month

Glaucoma occurs when there is damage to the optic nerve. As the nerve deteriorates, blind areas occur in a person’s vision. Because glaucoma can often come on slowly without people knowing they are developing it, the National Glaucoma Month was created so that each January, people will be reminded to talk about eye health with those they love and those who take care of their loved ones, like physicians and senior care providers.

Some of the risk factors for developing glaucoma include age along with medications taken for many age-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. For these reasons, it’s important to talk to your aging parent about glaucoma and its symptoms so that together you can determine if she needs to have her eyes checked for the disease.

There are two main types of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma, and angle-closure glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of the disease. Pressure grows in the eye slowly over time, damaging the optic nerve. It can happen so slowly that your parent may lose vision before she’s even aware of a problem. The other type of glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, is a lot more rare and often happens suddenly. The fluid in the eye is not able to circulate.

When that occurs, it is a medical emergency.

In order to help your parent prevent glaucoma from getting to the point where it causes permanent blindness, it helps to know the symptoms. Each type of glaucoma has different symptoms.

Open-angle Glaucoma Symptoms:

  • Patchy blind spots in her side (peripheral) or central vision, often in both eyes
    If your parent has complained to either you or your senior care provider about not being able to see things to her side, it might be that some damage has already occurred. Also, if you or your senior care provider notices that she needs to turn her head (and not just shift her eyes) to see items, she might not even realize she’s compensating for the loss already.
  • Tunnel vision in the advanced stages
    If your parent complains about having a darkened exterior around her line of vision, she might have tunnel vision, a definite sign of glaucoma.

Angle-closure Glaucoma Symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Eye pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Eye redness

With angle-closure glaucoma, these symptoms often come on quickly. If your parent experiences severe headache, eye pain and/or blurred vision, you or your senior care provider should bring her to the emergency room right away.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for glaucoma and blindness at this time. Luckily, medication and/or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease. If your parent hasn’t been to the eye doctor for a regular comprehensive eye exam with a glaucoma test, you should schedule one for her near future and then make sure you get her on a regular schedule for appointments going forward. To keep her independent lifestyle, your parent’s sight is of the utmost importance.


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