What You Should Know About Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States. The disease 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.
Glaucoma is caused by the eye’s failure to maintain the balance of pressure between the internal fluid and the amount of fluid it drains away. High eye pressure triggered by this imbalance causes pressure to build up against the optic nerve resulting in nerve damage. Damage typically starts in the outside peripheral vision and is often not recognized by patients. A dilated eye exam is necessary to examine the optic nerve.
Why is an annual eye exam so important?
Because Bissell Eye Care conducts comprehensive annual exams including dilation, we can see the nerves into the back of the eye and the health of those nerves. As an added step following dilation, through the use of OCT exam machine technology, we can see layers of the eye, much like an MRI.
Glaucoma often referred to as the “thief of sight” displays no symptoms. Loss of vision occurs so gradually that people that have glaucoma don’t realize they have the disease until it’s too late. The best defense against developing glaucoma-related blindness is to have an annual eye exam.
In our exams we look for the following:
- Inner eye pressure
- Shape and color of the optic nerve – done by dilation
- Complete field of vision test
- Angle in the eye where the iris meets the cornea
- Thickness of the cornea
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, “It is estimated that over 3 million Americans have glaucoma but only half of those know they have it. In the U.S., more than 120,000 are blind from glaucoma, accounting for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization.”
Treatment generally begins with eye drops. Just as in any other prescribed medication, it’s important to consistently take the drops as prescribed. Since glaucoma symptoms are typically undetected, patients will not realize the damage that can be done without following the prescription.
If your optometrist deems that eye drops aren’t the best course of action, lasers or in extreme cases surgical procedures may be necessary to treat the disease.
TYPES OF GLAUCOMA
- Chronic (Open Angle) Glaucoma: The most common form. In open angle glaucoma, aqueous fluid drains too slowly and pressure inside the eye builds up. It usually results from the aging of the drainage channel, which doesn’t work as well over time. However, younger people can also get this type of glaucoma.
- Normal Tension Glaucoma: This is a form of open angle glaucoma not related to high pressure. People with normal tension glaucoma may be unusually sensitive to normal levels of pressure. Reduced blood supply to the optic nerve may also play a role in normal tension glaucoma.
- Acute (Angle Closure) Glaucoma: Those of Asian and Native American descent are at higher risk for this form of glaucoma. It occurs when the drainage system of the eye becomes blocked. It causes a sudden rise in pressure, requiring immediate, emergency medical care. The signs are usually serious and may include blurred vision, severe headaches, eye pain, nausea, vomiting or seeing rainbow-like halos around lights.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. If you haven’t scheduled a regular eye exam, now is the time to do so. Call it your New Year’s Resolution to better health.
TAKE ACTION and CALL our office at 724-443-6767 or 724-226-0444 today to schedule your appointment!
About Bissell Eye Care: John D. Bissell, OD owns and operates Bissell Eye Care servicing Northern Pittsburgh and Alle-Kiski Valley regions. With two locations to treat patients, we offer evening and Saturday appointments. Bissell Eye Care provides comprehensive eye examinations for the entire family beginning as early as 6 months, ocular disease detection and treatment, eyeglasses, sunglasses, activewear, contact lenses, and low vision examinations for those with significant vision loss. We accept most types of vision and health insurance plans. For more information, visit bisselleyecare.com or call our Bakerstown Office at 724-443-6767 or Natrona Heights office at 724-226-0444.