An estimated 3 million Americans have glaucoma, and at least half don’t realize they have it because often there are no visual symptoms in the beginning stage. A recent survey indicated that 7 out of 10 adults have not undergone an eye examination or glaucoma screening within the past three years. This is not good, as the only way to diagnose glaucoma, especially in its early stages, is with a comprehensive medical eye examination. During such an exam, an instrument called a tonometer is capable of checking the pressure in the eye, painlessly and quickly. Also your doctor will dilate your pupils to allow direct examination of the optic nerves. Depending on the results of that test, a visual field test may also be recommended.
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It should be noted that acute angle-closure (also termed closed-angle or narrow-angle) glaucoma can produce severe symptoms with the rapid and painful rise in pressure. Patients may experience intense eye pain accompanied by nausea, redness, swelling of the eye, loss of peripheral vision as well as blurred vision and halos. It is important to reduce the pressure quickly because permanent vision loss can occur if the pressure is not reduced in a timely manner. It is considered a medical emergency, so immediate professional treatment is needed to preserve sight.
Other types of acute angle-closure glaucoma, however, can progress very slowly and cause eye damage without any obvious symptoms or pain in early stages.
Since glaucoma tends to run in families, it is important for the entire family to have regular eye examinations, especially if there is a family history of glaucoma.
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