Submitted by Eye Surgical Associates
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and even blindness. About 3 million Americans have glaucoma, and it is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. There are often no early symptoms, which is why 50 percent of people with glaucoma don’t know they have the disease.
Anyone can get glaucoma, but certain groups are at higher risk. These groups include African-Americans over age 40, all people over age 60, people with a family history of glaucoma, and people who have diabetes. African-Americans are six to eight times more likely to get glaucoma than whites. People with diabetes are two times more likely to get glaucoma than people without diabetes.
If you are in a high-risk group, get a comprehensive dilated eye exam to catch glaucoma early and start treatment. Even if you are not in a high-risk group, getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam by the age of 40 can help catch glaucoma and other eye diseases early as well as discover other risk factors for glaucoma, such as high eye pressure, thinness of the cornea, or abnormal optic nerve anatomy.
Open-angle (chronic) glaucoma is the most common form. Damage to the optic nerve is usually due to increased pressure in the eye, also known as intraocular pressure (IOP). The increase in eye pressure occurs slowly over time, and the pressure pushes on the optic nerve. The cause is unknown, but it tends to run in families. Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes.
At first, open-angle glaucoma causes no pain and vision stays normal. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision. As glaucoma remains untreated, people may miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead (central) vision may decrease until no vision remains.
Vision lost cannot be restored, but immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay progression of the disease. That’s why early diagnosis is very important. Open-angle glaucoma can usually be successfully treated with prescription eye drops or pills. Some medicines cause the eye to make less fluid, while others lower pressure by helping fluid drain from the eye.
Your doctor may also suggest surgery for open-angle glaucoma. Laser surgery helps fluid drain out of the eye and is performed in your doctor’s office. Conventional surgery makes a new opening for the fluid to leave the eye. Conventional surgery often is done after medicines and laser surgery have failed to control pressure. The goal of treatment is to reduce eye pressure to save remaining vision and prevent any further vision loss.
Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure, being physically active, and avoiding smoking will help you avoid vision loss from glaucoma. These healthy behaviors will also help prevent type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions. There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but if it’s caught early, you can preserve your vision and prevent vision loss. Taking action to preserve your vision health is key.
For more information about glaucoma, laser refractive cataract surgery or to schedule a comprehensive eye exam, contact ESA Eye Surgical Associates at 309-662-7700. Ophthalmologists Daniel Brownstone, Catharine Crockett, Scott Pinter, and Optometrist Kathleen Vize will be happy to assist you. ESA is located at 1505 Eastland Drive, Suite 2200 Bloomington.