What is Glaucoma? From the Expert January 1, 2019 By: Christy Benson, MD, and Monique Root, OD Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes pressure within the eye to build up and exceed what the eye can safely withstand. The excess pressure gradually erodes the optic nerve, which is the “cable” that connects the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is an insidious medical condition that is frequently called “a thief in the night” as up to 90% of optic nerve fibers may be lost before a patient notices any disease-related symptoms. Over 3 million Americans have glaucoma, and it is very likely that half of the people with glaucoma are not aware that they suffer from this eye condition. With early detection of glaucoma and medical intervention, most vision loss can be prevented. Without diagnosis and preventative treatment, vision loss from glaucoma can be profound and irreversible. Research indicates that the most significant risk factor for glaucoma is a family history of the disease. If you have a first-degree relative with glaucoma (a parent or sibling), your likelihood of having glaucoma is ten times higher. What are some other risk factors that increase the likelihood of your having glaucoma? Research indicates that individuals of African descent are more prone to having glaucoma. A history of eye trauma will increase your risk. Asians have a greater risk for narrow angle glaucoma, and nearsighted men have a greater risk for pigmentary glaucoma. How can you assess whether or not you have glaucoma and catch the deterioration of the optic nerve before the damage is too far-gone? The best defense against developing glaucoma-related blindness is for adults to routinely receive comprehensive eye exams. We encourage you to ask your family members if there is a history of glaucoma. The answer may quite literally change your outlook on life. In the coming year, please be sure to schedule a comprehensive eye exam to ensure your eyes are healthy and to monitor any changes to your eyesight. Broadlawns Eye Clinic and our highly skilled team of medical providers are here to attend to your overall eye health, including examinations, injections, surgical procedures, eyeglasses and contact lenses. To schedule an appointment, please call (515) 282-2362. Here’s to your eye health!