January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is an eye disease that is caused by high pressure in the eye, and is the 2nd leading cause of blindness worldwide. These changes in pressure can develop naturally with age, putting everyone at risk for developing the disease. Glaucoma often has no symptoms which is why it is nicknamed the “sneak thief of sight.”
Below is the true story of Jim S., father of a VSP employee, who discovered he had glaucoma during his annual eye exam.
I went to the eye doctor for a routine eye exam with my eye doctor. I hadn’t been experiencing any troubling symptoms, the occasional watery eye, but no pain or obvious visual symptoms.
During the appointment, my optometrist noticed that there was flattening of my optic nerve and she also had concerns with my visual field testing results. It came as quite a surprise when she told me that I might have glaucoma. She immediately referred me to an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist performed additional tests, and found some damage to the optic nerve and a few spots were missing in the visual field of my left eye. She confirmed the diagnosis as acute angle glaucoma.
I first learned of glaucoma through my mother, who had the disease. She had to go through surgeries and took medication for it, but it didn’t control it well. We also had family pet that required eye drops around the clock. And I have an acquaintance that became legally blind because he did not receive proper treatment for it. As you could imagine, it was no comfort to me to hear my diagnosis. I had seen how much my mother struggled with her vision, but in addition to glaucoma, my mother had macular degeneration too. The doctor reassured me that I had no signs of macular degeneration or cataracts, but I am still at risk for developing those conditions.
To treat my glaucoma, they were able to open up the angle a bit through a laser procedure on both eyes and I was also prescribed eye drops. In my first follow up appointment I was taken off the drops as my eye pressure was well within normal limits. However, at my 2nd follow up appointment, they found further defect in my left eye, but my pressures were well within normal limits. The doctor told me I have normal tension glaucoma and put me back on drops again for my left eye.
I am very thankful that I have access to regular vision exams, which enabled early detection of changes to my vision. Even though I will have glaucoma for the rest of my life, I am thankful that for now I only have to take eye drops twice a day.