Lurking in the shadows and dark alleys, the rapacious thief is poised to pounce on unsuspecting prey. Is it stalking you?
I always thought the Silent Thief of Sight only prowled “old people.” I thought:
“I’m not hitting the oldster off-ramp for another 20, 30 years. After all, I’m not even 60! Besides, my vision’s just fine. I’m good, right?”
I was recently diagnosed with “narrow angle glaucoma,” a serious condition occurring in about 10-15% of all glaucoma patients. I was at High Risk for an “acute angle closure,” which can result in partial or total blindness. At age 59.
It’s called “The Silent Thief of Sight” because there are no early symptoms until it’s too late. In fact, half of the 3M Americans with glaucoma don’t even know they have it. I didn’t. My optometrist caught it during a routine eye exam.
Narrow angles like mine are very dangerous. Pressure builds in the eye when natural fluids can’t drain due to the narrow angles. It’s like damming up a river. When this happens, the eye pressure increases dramatically and can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve = partial or total blindness.
Risk Factors for Narrow Angle Glaucoma
The following risk factors are associated with narrow angle glaucoma. Via Very Well Health:
- Farsightedness: Farsighted individuals are more likely to have a shallow anterior chamber.
- Age: Aging causes changes in the anatomy of the eye, putting you at risk for developing the disease.
- Race: Asians and Inuit people have a higher risk of developing narrow angle glaucoma because they have a shallow anterior chamber and anatomically narrow angles.
- Sex: Women are more likely to have narrow angle glaucoma.
- Cataracts: Cataracts can grow and make the lens of the eye thicker, often pushing the iris forward and causing pupillary block.
Fortunately, an excellent treatment preventing most narrow angles from closing is a Laser Iridectomy. It’s performed with a laser in an office setting. Basically, the laser burns a small hole in the iris to create an alternative drainage route when the usual channel becomes too narrow or blocked to allow adequate drainage.
I had a Laser Iridectomy* in both eyes yesterday. The number of applications depends on the thickness of the iris. The average is 3 to 4. I required 5 laser applications in each eye. (It’s fairly quick and doesn’t hurt. Anesthetic eye drops are administered before surgery.)
Prior to the procedure, the pressure in my eyes was 19 (R) and 18 (L). Normal is between 8 and 21. While I was on the high end of normal, my extremely narrow angles put me at High Risk for an acute angle closure – and potential blindness.
Post-surgery, the pressure in both eyes dropped a full point within the hour. So it went very well. I’m taking Prednistolone eye drops every four hours for the next few days. I’m good with that.
In summation, please don’t assume that just because your eyesight is fine, everything’s okay. My eyesight is 20/15. I also aced all the vision tests, including a perfect score on peripheral vision. This has to do with pressure inside the eye, not vision per se. By the time your vision is impacted and symptoms register, it may be too late.
So. When’s the last time you had your eyes checked? If it’s been over two years since your last eye exam, it’s too long. You can catch that Silent Thief. Schedule an appointment with your health care professional TODAY!
Disclaimer: Nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice or a diagnosis. Please consult your health care professional. (*My doctor called the procedure an “Iridectomy.” Other sources call it an “Iridotomy.”)
Image credit – angle closure glaucoma: Harvard Health Publishing – Harvard Medical School