Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve, which sends visual information to your brain. It’s also the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. More than 3 million people in the US have glaucoma—but only half of them know it, says Andrew G. Iwach, MD, a glaucoma specialist at the Glaucoma Center of San Francisco.
Spot it: The most common form of glaucoma (called open-angle glaucoma) has been nicknamed the ‘Sneak Thief of Sight,’ says Iwach. That’s because, at the start, it often has no symptoms. What’s happening inside your eye, though? Pressure increases and blind spots develop in your side view. “These points can go undetected until the optic nerve has had serious damage, or until it is detected by an ophthalmologist through a complete eye exam,” says Iwach.
Treat it: What your doc will decide to do will depend on the severity of the disease. “Taken daily, medicated eye drops are the most common way to treat glaucoma,” says Iwach. Surgery is also an option. But it’s important to touch base with your doctor to find out which treatment is best for you.
Prevent it: Quick: When was the last time you saw an eye doctor? Well, the AAO recommends everyone has an eye exam starting at age 40—even if your vision is A-OK. If you have a family history of eye disease, you may be at an increased risk for glaucoma, though, and may need to see an ophthalmologist before then, says Iwach. He adds that people of African, Latino, and Asian heritage are at increased risk for glaucoma, too.