Glaucoma, Diabetes, and Macular Degeneration

Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a painless, symptomless disease. Glaucoma leads to blindness by damaging the optic nerve. Elevated pressure in the eye is a risk factor, but even people with "normal" pressure can lose vision to glaucoma.

Glaucoma has been nicknamed the "silent thief of sight" because the loss of vision often occurs gradually over a long time and occurs without symptoms. A person with chronic glaucoma would not experience any eye pain, eye redness, headaches, or "pressure in eyes". Glaucoma may only be recognized when it is already quite advanced. Once lost, this damaged visual field can never be recovered. A comprehensive eye exam is the only way to determine if you have glaucoma.

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Diabetes

Diabetes affects many parts of the body, including the eyes. Anyone who has diabetes is at risk for diabetic retinopathy. The longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to develop diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is more likely to occur if you have poorly controlled diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy is the result of damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina (the seeing part of the eye). These blood vessels swell and leak fluid. Sometimes new blood vessels begin to grow. These blood vessels are abnormal and fragile. If they leak they can cause severe loss of vision or blindness.

To protect your vision, take your diabetes seriously. Control your blood sugar levels and have an eye exam at least once per year, or sooner, if your eye care professional recommends it.

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Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in people age 60 and older. The risk of developing macular degeneration increases as you age, if you have a family history of the disease, are a smoker, have a diet low in green leafy vegetables, and are exposed to UV rays. It is caused by a deterioration of the macula (the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail). Macular degeneration has two forms wet and dry. It can advance slowly or very quickly causing severe loss of vision in one or both eyes.

Yearly eye exams can detect macular degeneration. Treatment can slow vision loss but cannot restore vision.

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