Glaucoma is referred to as the "sneak thief of sight". Many patients do not experience any symptoms. Vision loss starts with loss of peripheral vision and in late stages affects central vision. Patients who go untreated with glaucoma may face some visual loss or even blindness. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. It is as common as high blood pressure and diabetes, but has a widespread lack of familiarity.
Glaucoma is a specified pattern of optic nerve damage and visual field loss caused by a number of different eye diseases, which can affect the eye. Not all, but most of these diseases, are characterized by elevated intraocular pressure. This is an important risk factor for the development of glaucoma, not the disease itself, because it strikes without obvious symptoms.
Everyone should be concerned about glaucoma and its effects. It is important for each of us, from infancy to senior citizens, to have our eyes checked regularly. Early detection and treatment of glaucoma are the only ways to prevent visual impairment or even blindness.
There are a few conditions that tend to put people at a greater risk. These include:
- You are over 45 and have not had your eyes examined regularly
- Family history of glaucoma
- Abnormally high intraocular pressure
- You have diabetes
- Are of African descent
- You are nearsighted
- Have regular or long-term steroid/cortisone use
- Have had a previous eye injury
Our physicians can perform a series of simple tests which can help to determine whether or not you have glaucoma or are likely to develop the disease, even before you have symptoms. The most important thing you can do to protect your vision from glaucoma is to have regular eye exams. If your eye doctor finds that you have the disease or that you are at risk for the disease, treatment can be recommended to minimize the risks or effects.
Spotlight on Glaucoma
One of the most important functions of a comprehensive eye exam is the evaluation for glaucoma. Drops are used to check the eye pressure and dilate to view the optic nerves. To learn more read the FAQ’S below:
Why do I need to get dilated?
Dilation allows the pupil (center) of the eye to open and expand to allow the Doctor to view the inside of your eye in detail. The magnified view is critical for detecting subtle abnormalities including enlargement of your nerves which is a sign of glaucoma.
Will I go blind from glaucoma?
The best way to prevent blindness is through early diagnosis at your annual exam and treatment to slow the progression of the disease. If eye drops are prescribed they must be used everyday and regular follow up visits must be kept to make sure the medication is working.
Why is it important to take eye drops everyday?
They are specially formulated to lower your eye pressure. This is the most effective way to decrease the chance of further damage to your optic nerve. Your eye pressure fluctuates throughout the day and when it spikes damage can occur. The drops help to stabilize the pressure while you are awake and sleeping.
Are there any other treatment options besides daily drops?
Yes you may be a candidate for a laser procedure that will allow control of the eye pressure. You may discuss it with your Doctor. Follow up visits are still very important to make sure the eye pressure is being maintained.
What is the purpose of the additional tests?
Visual field testing is the gold standard of care for detecting any blind spots or loss of vision. It provides a picture to show change over time. The newer technology includes imaging the optic nerves to give specific data about the size and shape and analyzes change over time. These tests provide the Doctor with data to make a decision about your care and treatment plan.
If I am having trouble with getting the drops in, buying the drops because they are expensive, or forgetting to take them what can I do?
Ask your Doctor for help because we will provide you with tips in regards to instillation. There are generic options and financial assistance for some patients if you are having trouble affording the medication. The medication is essential to preserving sight. Make it part of your daily routine. There is no cure for glaucoma and vision loss that occurs is not reversible.