What is it and how is it treated?
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye disorders that usually have few or no initial symptoms and eventually cause harm to the optic nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain…leading to permanent vision loss. Globally, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness (behind cataracts).
The most common type of glaucoma called open angle glaucoma affects approximately 2.2 million Americans with the number expected to rise to over 3 million by 2020.
One risk factor for developing this eye disease is higher-than-normal pressure inside the eye (ocular hypertension). People who have ocular hypertension for several years are at an increased risk of damage to the optic nerve. This first causes damage to your peripheral (side) vision, eventually leading to blindness. Unfortunately, this is not easily noticed and when left untreated, often leads to blindness. Other risk factors for developing glaucoma include a family member with glaucoma, smoking, being Hispanic, Latino or African-American, having sleep apnea or simply just getting older.
During all routine eye examinations Drs. Cauchi and Peters will perform a test called tonometry which allows us to measure the pressure inside the eye, a screening visual field test and directly view the optic nerve in each eye to check for damage from glaucoma. If these test reveal a suspicion that you may have early glaucoma, we will schedule a follow up examination to perform additional additional tests. These tests include the use of sophisticated imaging technology, such as optical coherence tomography (OCT), digital retinal stereo photos, and threshold visual field testing. If these tests confirm a diagnosis of glaucoma, you will be referred for treatment.
Dr. Peters is licensed by the State of California to manage and treat glaucoma. If the diagnosis of glaucoma in confirmed, she will establish baseline images and measurements of the eye’s optic nerve and internal structures and function. Then she will begin treatment by prescribing eye drops to lower the eye’s pressure. At specified intervals, additional images and measurements will be taken to make sure no changes have occurred over time that might indicate progressive glaucoma damage. Further treatment can involve referral for glaucoma surgery depending on the severity.
Because glaucoma often is painless, people may become careless about strict use of eye drops that can control eye pressure and help prevent permanent eye damage. In fact, non-compliance with a program of prescribed glaucoma medication is a major reason for blindness caused by glaucoma. Most glaucoma can be controlled over a person’s lifetime in order to prevent an end result of blindness.
Can you reduce your risk for glaucoma? First of all, don’t smoke. If you do, quit! We think that the chemicals in cigarettes can be toxic to the delicate structures in the optic nerve. Engage in regular exercise that increases your heart rate. According to a recent European study, exercise increases cardiovascular health which may lower your risk. Maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a varied and healthy diet can also lower your risk.
Vision Solutions has the experience and equipment necessary to diagnose and often treat glaucoma. For more information please schedule an appointment with your eye care provider, and we will be in touch with you shortly.