Glaucoma Awareness Month
Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States. Glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms in its early stages, and vision loss progresses at such a gradual rate that people affected by the condition are often unaware of it until their sight has already been compromised. During Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, the American Academy of Ophthalmology advises the public that the best defense against developing glaucoma-related blindness is by having routine, comprehensive eye exams.
What are symptoms of Glaucoma?
At first, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms and it causes no pain. 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. It is like looking through a tunnel. Over time, central vision may decrease until no vision remains. Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes.
How is glaucoma detected?
Glaucoma is detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam that includes:
Visual acuity test. This is an eye chart test that measures how well you see at various distances.
Visual field test. This test measures your peripheral (side vision). It helps your eye care professional tell if you have lost peripheral vision, which is a sign of glaucoma.
Dilated eye exam. In this exam, drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
Tonometry is the measurement of pressure inside the eye by using an instrument called a tonometer, which measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.
Pachymetry is the measurement of the thickness of your cornea. For this, a numbing drop is applied to your eye and an ultrasonic wave instrument is used to measure the thickness of your cornea.
There is no cure for glaucoma. Any vision lost from the disease cannot be restored.
Immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay progression of the disease. That’s why early diagnosis is very important.
Medicines. Medicines, in the form of eye drops or pills, are the most common early treatment for glaucoma. Used regularly, these eye drops lower eye pressure. Some medicines cause the eye to make less fluid. Others lower pressure by helping fluid drain from the eye. Before you begin glaucoma treatment, make sure to tell your eye care professional about other medicines and supplements that you are taking. The drops can sometimes interfere with the way other medicines work. Glaucoma medicines need to be taken regularly as directed by your eye care professional. Most people have no problems.
Because glaucoma often has no symptoms, people may be tempted to stop taking, or forget to take, their medicine. You need to use the drops or pills as long as they help control your eye pressure. Regular use is very important.
Microsurgery for glaucoma. In an operation called a trabeculectomy, a new channel is created to drain the fluid, thereby reducing intraocular pressure that causes glaucoma.
Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but if it is diagnosed and treated early, the disease can be controlled.
Talk to your eye doctor to find out which glaucoma treatment is right for you.