Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, resulting in loss of vision and blindness if left untreated. Although many factors influence the onset of glaucoma, it is most often attributed to rising fluid pressure levels inside the eye. If glaucoma is detected early in an eye exam, it can be treated. Make sure you talk to your certified eye care specialist if it’s been awhile since your last examination.
Increased fluid pressure in the eyes signals you are at risk for glaucoma, but it does not automatically indicate the presence of the disease. Once the optic nerve, the essential link between the eye and the brain, is damaged by high fluid pressure, a persona has glaucoma. Not everyone who experiences high fluid pressure in their eyes will develop glaucoma. Some people can tolerate higher pressures, while others are more vulnerable to optic nerve damage.
Who Is At Risk For Glaucoma?
Strictly speaking, anyone can develop glaucoma. However, people that meet certain criteria do have a higher risk of developing the condition. These at-risk demographics include:
- Anyone with a family history of developing glaucoma
- People over the age of 60, especially Mexican-Americans
- African Americans over the age of 40
African Americans are much more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians, and seem to be more susceptible to the damaging effects of the disease. Research has shown that not only are African Americans five times more likely than Caucasians to develop glaucoma, but they are also four times more likely to suffer partial or total blindness as a result of the disease.
How Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?
In many cases, there are no symptoms and no obvious pain associated with the onset of glaucoma. This is why it is essential that you schedule regular eye examinations with your local eye care professional. These comprehensive checkups can identify glaucoma even when no obvious symptoms are present.
As the disease progresses, peripheral sight begins to fail. This makes it harder to see objects off to the side, and some objects in the corner of the eye may be missed entirely. Once peripheral vision has degraded, straight-ahead vision begins to deteriorate as well. If left untreated, blindness can occur. If you are experiencing any loss of peripheral vision, call a certified eye care specialist right away to make an appointment.
Can Glaucoma Be Treated?
Luckily, glaucoma is a treatable and preventable disease. If it is caught in the early stages of development, you stand a good chance of avoiding serious optic nerve damage that may lead to vision loss. The common methods used to treat glaucoma include medicines, laser treatments, surgery, or a combination of these options.
- Medicine. Glaucoma medicines in the form of eye drops or pills are the most common way to treat the disease in its early stages. Some medicines counteract the disease by reducing the amount of eye fluid produced, while others help to drain fluid from the eye to reduce pressure. Make sure you inform your eye care specialist about any other medications you may be taking to avoid unwanted drug interactions. Remember, even if you aren’t experiencing symptoms or discomfort, continue to take the medicine you’ve been prescribed!
- Laser treatment. The laser treatment used to treat glaucoma is called laser trabeculoplasty. Lasers make small incisions in the eye that allow the fluid to drain adequately and evenly. Once the treatment is complete, your doctor may prescribe medicines to supplement the effects of the procedure. Keep in mind that the benefits may wear off over time, requiring new methods of treatment.
- Surgery. If medicines and laser trabeculoplasty have failed to reduce the fluid pressure in your eye, your eye specialist may recommend conventional surgery. During this procedure, a new opening is made for eye fluid to drain properly. This effective treatment has an impressive 60-80% success rate.
As always, talk to your eye care specialist about which treatment is the best for you.
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