Glaucoma is not a single condition, but a complex group of eye diseases that affects the optic nerve. Over time, undetected damage to the optic nerve can result in vision loss. But there is hope- early diagnosis and treatment can protect your eye health and vision.
Eye pressure is a prime risk factor for optic nerve damage. A clear fluid inside our eyes is continually produced and drained through a special meshwork around the iris. When the meshwork drainage and production does not work properly, this causes fluid pressure levels to rise. The increased pressure causes damage at the optic nerve that initially starts with changes in peripheral, or ‘side’ vision. As a result of the gradual and often painless changes, Glaucoma has become known as the ‘Silent Thief of Sight”. Detecting early signs of glaucoma and ultimately controlling eye pressure is critical and can’t be overstated.
There are a number of risk factors associated with glaucoma, including family history of glaucoma, unmanaged high blood pressure, age, race, diabetes, past eye injury or surgery, and corticosteroid medications. If you are in one or more of the high-risk groups, you should be tested yearly, and your Optometrist will advise if you need to have special testing done more often.
A comprehensive eye exam with your Optometrist will include assessment for signs and risk factors for many eye conditions including Glaucoma. When risk factors and signs are noted, additional glaucoma examination will be administered to help assist in achieving an accurate diagnosis. Tests your optometrist uses either in general exam or in advanced glaucoma testing and monitoring may include:
At the beginning stage, prescription eye drops can be an effective treatment to delay the progression of glaucoma. For optimal results, these medications must be used consistently as prescribed. Failure to adhere to your eye doctor’s instructions will lead to vision loss. Advanced stage glaucoma can require eye surgery to create an opening to release fluid build-up or laser trabeculoplasty to assist with drainage.
The best glaucoma treatment is prevention. Visit your optometrist every year so that vision changes can be monitored and addressed as you age. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet will be helpful in prevention of many eye and health concerns.