In its early stages, glaucoma is a symptomless disease of the optic nerve. Most cases of glaucoma have a genetic origin, but there are several other possible causes. Even people with normal eye pressure can develop glaucoma. Medically, the exact biological mechanism for glaucoma is still not fully understood. However, it is known that optic nerve damage progresses faster in the presence of elevated intraocular pressure. Treating the eye pressure with medical eye drops or surgery can slow or halt the progression of this disease. A healthy life style which includes regular exercise can also be a factor in maintaining optimal eye pressure.
Glaucoma still remains the number one cause of blindness in America; because people with glaucoma have no way to appreciate the severity of their condition until the disease has robbed them of much of their functional peripheral vision.Only a comprehensive eye exam, with a dilated evaluation of the optic nerve and imaging with peripheral visual field testing can confirm the presence of this eye disease.
Open angle glaucoma does not cause acute pain or sudden vision loss. In fact, the functional decline is so gradual that people can adapt to the changes as the disease progresses. They may not notice until they have an accident or until the disease affects their central vision. Unfortunately, by then there is no way to regain what vision is lost and additional damage is more likely.
Peripheral Vision Loss
If you are found to be at risk for Glaucoma
- You may be told you have one or more risks factors for developing glaucoma. These could include the following:
Elevated intraocular pressure (typically above 20)
- Optic nerves that show a large amount of “cupping”
- High Amounts of Nearsightedness or Farsightedness
- Race or Ethnicity – glaucoma is more common in people of African descent as well as people from Asia.
- Other family members with glaucoma (specifically a sibling but multiple family members including mother and father is significant)
The more risk factors one has the more likely they will need a glaucoma specific evaluation.
The Glaucoma Evaluation
It is important to know definitively if a patient has the disease before treatment is started, because glaucoma treatment tends to be lifelong once started.
Patients will have to be monitored more frequently and have at least one visual field test and one image of their optic nerve every year. With regular follow up visits, we can detect the signs of glaucoma sooner and better monitor any progression of the disease.
Each case of glaucoma is unique, and each person must have the treatment of their disease tailored to the severity of their condition and how that treatment interacts with their other systemic health issues. When patients have exceptionally complex cases or conventional therapy seems to be ineffective, other specialists may be employed who can perform surgery on the eye to lower the pressure beyond what topical therapy can achieve.
At Optometric Associates, we take the time to keep you informed of you condition and your options. Our state-of the-art technology can detect glaucoma at its early stages, and accurately detect any changes in your condition. We have years of experience in treating glaucoma, and we value your eye health as much as our own.