Glaucoma Awareness Month
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss. There are often no early signs or symptoms until the condition is in its advanced stages. This month, we’ll be highlighting the most common type of glaucoma and treatment options.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve, which is the eye’s connection with the brain. There are different types of glaucoma conditions, but the most common type is open-angle glaucoma and 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.
With open-angle glaucoma, there are no early signs or symptoms at the beginning. In the later stages of the disease, the main symptom is the development of blind spots in the peripheral (side) vision.
Staying up to date with your annual comprehensive eye exams can help with early detection. We do a few tests here at the office to screen for glaucoma, such as:
Tonometer. Spoiler alert, we don’t do puff of air test here. Instead, we use a handheld device, known as the iCare tonometer, to measure the pressure of your eye. It might feel a bit weird, some would say it's an eyelash tickling sensation, but it’s harmless and over in less than a minute!
Digital Retinal Imaging Screening. We use a retinal camera to take a quick picture using a bright flash. This imaging lets the doctor know if there are any underlying diseases within the eye that you normally would not be aware of, which can be difficult to detect yourself as there are no pain receptors in the back of your eye.
OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) Scan. These scans are quick and non-invasive and allow the doctor to see a highly detailed view of the inner lining of the eye, often without the need of dilation. The OCT takes scans of the layers of your retina and measures their thickness.
Glaucoma typically occurs in older adults, but can happen to anyone. There are risk factors that can increase the chances of developing, such as:
Being over age 60
Family history of glaucoma
Are of African, Hispanic, or Asian heritage
Having certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia
Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
Once diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s important to start treatment right away. It won’t undo any damage to your vision, but it can prevent it from getting worse. There are a couple of treatment options your doctor may explore, such as:
Prescription eye drops. This is often the most common treatment. Eye drops can lower the pressure in your eye and prevent damage to the optic nerve.
Laser treatment. Lasers are used to help the fluid drain out of your eye.
There is no cure when it comes to glaucoma, but it can be controlled with proper treatment and regular visits with your eye doctor. Early detection is important to minimize the risk of vision loss.