By: Dr. Amber Teten, Eye Doctor
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Having your eyes checked by your local eye doctor for glaucoma at your next eye exam is important to remember.
Have you heard of the eye term glaucoma? Do you remember the dreaded puff test at your eye doctor visits that checked for glaucoma? Glaucoma is an ocular disease of various types that leads to progressive damage of the nerve bundles in the optic nerve. When undiagnosed or untreated, this loss of nerve tissues results in the loss of peripheral or side vision and can eventually lead to blindness. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world compared to cataracts.
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Being evaluated for glaucoma is important! This is another reason why having an annual eye exam is important. Even when you think your eyesight is just fine and you don’t need to wear glasses. There are ocular health conditions such as glaucoma that do not affect the everyday vision of people until the end or what is known as the uncontrolled stages of eye disease. And sadly, that late stage could have been prevented by having regular eye exams with your eye doctor each year.
There are various types of glaucoma. The two main types are open-angle and acute-angle closure. The difference between the two is the significant increase in intraocular pressure or pressure within the eye. It is estimated that open-angle glaucoma affects over 3 million people in the United States. Changes are good that you know of a family member or friend that has been diagnosed with glaucoma or is being closely monitored for glaucoma by their eye doctor.
There are risk factors for glaucoma.
- Chronic forms of glaucoma can cause loss of vision before symptoms are seen. So, it is crucial to be aware of the risk factors for glaucoma.
- Elevated intraocular eye pressure – having a higher eye pressure, usually over 21 mmHg, accounts for a higher risk of developing glaucoma due to the stress on the optic nerve. Normal eye pressure is usually around 16 mmHg.
- Age – People over 60 are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma. After age 80, the risk of developing glaucoma is significantly higher.
- Race/Ethnicity – African Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma and have vision loss when compared to Caucasians. Asians are at a high risk of developing acute-angle closure glaucoma.
- Family History – having a family history, especially sibling, with glaucoma increases the risk of developing glaucoma.
- Systemic medical conditions- diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and heart disease may increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
- Eye injury- severe blunt force trauma to the eye can immediately increase eye pressure and even a longstanding increase in pressure. Or the trauma can cause the eye’s lens to move and block the angle of the eye, causing acute–angle closure glaucoma.
- Ocular anatomy – each person has a unique size and shape to their optic nerve and retina (back of the eye), which may account for the increased risk of glaucoma.
- Optic nerve appearance can indicate a higher risk of developing glaucoma. A large optic nerve usually means a larger opening inside the nerve, like a large donut with a large donut hole. It is recommended that these patients be seen once to twice a year for their eye exam to monitor the optic nerve.
- Other conditions, such as a history of retinal detachments or eye inflammations inside the eye, may cause glaucoma.
- High myopia, or high nearsightedness, poses a risk for glaucoma development in older age.
Are there any warning signs of glaucoma for a person to look out for?
In general, there are no early symptoms or pain from elevated eye pressure. Therefore, it is important to visit your eye doctor for your annual eye exam to diagnose and treat glaucoma before the threat of life-long vision loss happens.
What are the treatments for glaucoma? Are there any ways to prevent loss of vision in the eye disease?
While there is no cure for glaucoma, an early diagnosis at an eye exam is key. After that, responsible follow-up care with your eye doctor for continuing treatment can preserve your vision. Optic nerve damage and loss of vision from glaucoma cannot be reversed in most cases. On the positive side, glaucoma generally can usually be controlled, and vision remains stable.
Treatment for glaucoma remains the target to reduce intraocular pressure. Usually, the most common treatment for glaucoma is prescription eye drops. There are many prescription eye drops, ranging from taking eye drops once to three times a day, and they vary in action to lower the pressure inside the eye. Another treatment option that is rising in popularity and efficacy for treatment is laser treatment. This is an excellent option to decrease the number of drops used or if a person forgets to use their drops and has changes in their glaucoma. In severe stages of glaucoma, the best course of treatment can be various types of surgery. An implant can even be inserted into the eye during cataract surgery; it acts as another form of drainage for the fluid within the eye to release the intraocular pressure; it is called istent.
Are you able to reduce your risk of glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a tricky eye disease; we have very little control over developing glaucoma. It is best to live an active and healthy lifestyle to the best of your ability. It is recommended to have an eye exam each year to screen for glaucoma. Suppose you have health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease or have an increased risk of developing glaucoma. In that case, you should visit your eye doctor more frequently.
At Navigation Eye Care, we strongly recommend having a comprehensive eye exam yearly with OPTOS retinal imaging. This technology gives a high-resolution wide-field image of the inside of your eye, including your optic nerve. It provides your eye doctor, Dr. Teten, with a yearly photo record. Dr. Teten and her team recommend it to every patient at Navigation Eye Care, even infants, teenagers, and grandparents. This allows Dr. Teten to compare the health of the inside of the eye, retina, and optic nerve at each subsequent visit. Let’s make sure your eyes are healthy together!
Now that you understand how glaucoma can affect your vision, if you are interested in hearing more from an eye doctor’s perspective on how further your vision can affect your daily life, check out our latest blog.
So, suppose you are experiencing any issues with vision and think you may have glaucoma. We encourage you to call the Navigation Eye Care team at 757-529-6889 or schedule an appointment. We are equipped and prepared to care for you and your whole family. If you are looking for excellent service in a friendly manner, check us out. We highly recommend that you choose Navigation Eye Care when looking for a top eye doctor in Chesapeake. We will serve in the Chesapeake area for many years and can’t wait to see you and your family.