We depend on symptoms to help us know we are sick. High fever, sore throat, cough, body aches and chills are symptoms of influenza. Congestion, sneezing, watery eyes, low-grade fever and runny nose are symptoms of the common cold.
Pain and discomfort are not desirable, but symptoms bring awareness to a need for treatment and medical intervention. In rare cases, diseases can be asymptomatic. Glaucoma is an example of a condition that often causes no pain or symptoms.
Glaucoma is a family of eye diseases that damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve connects the retina to the brain, and when the optic nerve is damaged it can cause permanent eye damage or even blindness. Unfortunately, the optic nerve can be permanently damaged without feeling any pain, so you may suffer from glaucoma and not even know it.
There are approximately 2.2 million glaucoma sufferers in the United States, but as many as half may not know that they are afflicted with the disease. The first symptoms of glaucoma are a loss of peripheral vision, but by the time you realize that your peripheral vision is diminished, it is too late. The eyes have already been damaged. Increased pressure inside the eye causes the deterioration of the optic nerve, and this pressure will continue to damage the optic nerve until glaucoma is diagnosed adn treated or blindness occurs.
There is currently no cure for glaucoma, and nothing can be done to restore vision lost due to glaucoma. You can receive treatment for the disease, but eye drops and medication can only help keep eye pressure at a moderate level so you do not experience more vision loss. Glaucoma is known as the “silent thief of sight” because vision can be taken away so gradually that you do not even notice.
Comprehensive eye exams are essential in maintaining eye health, but especially in preventing, detecting and treating glaucoma. Each comprehensive eye exam includes a glaucoma test of some type and sometimes several. Even if you think that your vision is just fine, your eyes may be at risk. Skipping eye exams could mean that you are permanently damaging your vision. Make an appointment with your eye care professional for a comprehensive eye exam to help preserve your precious gift of sight.