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  • Writer's pictureBright Eyes Family Vision

Don't Be Blindsided by Glaucoma

Blindness is a disability that affects millions of people worldwide. Often times, people

assume most individuals with visual impairments or total blindness were simply born that way. This is rarely the case. There are many diseases of the eyes that can lead to irreversible vision loss. This month, we will be focusing on one in particular--glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, which is the eye’s connection with the brain. The most common type of glaucoma is associated with elevated eye pressure. Rising pressure inside the eye works like a hose and a water balloon. As more liquid is created and fails to drain away, the eye pressure increases, putting tension on the elements within. The longer someone goes with high pressure in their eyes, the more damage is done to the delicate nerve endings of the optic nerve. Eventually, the nerve will deteriorate enough that the individual will lose their vision completely.

Glaucoma itself cannot be prevented, but there are many treatments that will help stop any damage from being done to your eyes. Early detection is key in the treatment process, so seeing your eye doctor yearly is absolutely necessary. During your annual exam, your doctor will test your eye pressure. Depending on where you go, there are a few different devices that can be used. The air puff test (non-contact tonometry) is one example. Air shoots out of a nozzle and hits your eye. The machine will then calculate how much resistance your eye had to the air blast. That will let your doctor know the pressure inside your eyes.

In our office, we do not use that particular test due to its lower accuracy and poor tolerance by patients. We have several ways of testing your eye pressure, but our doctor favors the iCare tonometer. This tonometer is incredibly gentle and does not require any special numbing drops before testing. Pressure is measured by testing resistance, but this time a small ball gently tickles your eye. Another option to evaluate eye pressure would be what some patients call the blue light test (Goldmann tonometry). Your doctor will put numbing drops into your eyes for this test and will have you sit with your head in the slit lamp biomicroscope. She will then slowly move a blue, flat tipped cone so that it rests against your cornea. Although it seems more invasive, this method also comfortably and accurately measures the pressure in your eyes.

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, your eye doctor will more than likely start you on a regimen of eye drops to lower the pressure in your eyes. Eye drops are the most common first line of therapy available to treat glaucoma. There are many different kinds of eye drops for your doctor to choose from, along with surgical procedures if needed. Glaucoma does not go away after you are diagnosed with it, and you will need to continue your drug therapy and periodic follow-ups to make sure that you are not losing vision without noticing it.

Glaucoma only has the potential to steal your vision if you do not take care of it. The first step is early diagnosis through annual comprehensive eye exams. After being diagnosed, you must keep up with your eye drop regimen and other treatments to minimize the risk of losing sight. With the right care, the outlook on glaucoma isn’t so bleak.

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