It is estimated that over two and a half million Americans have glaucoma and approximately half of them don’t know it. Glaucoma is an often misunderstood yet a very serious disease. It is not a form of cancer and you cannot catch it from someone else. Unfortunately glaucoma cannot be cured, once it is diagnosed it requires life long care and attention. But the good news is that it can usually be controlled with modern treatment and most people with glaucoma are able to lead normal and productive lives.
There are several types of glaucoma:
- Narrow – Angle
- Normal – Tension
- Primary Open-Angle
The most common type called Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. The early stages of Open-Angle glaucoma have no obvious symptoms. There is no pain or outward sign of trouble. Glaucoma has been called the “sneak thief of sight” because by the time you notice loss of vision, irreversible damage has already been done. This leads many people to wrongly assume that glaucoma always causes blindness. It is true that glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness, but that is not likely to happen unless the condition is left untreated. Today we know that if glaucoma is detected and treated early the disease can usually be controlled and vision loss can be minimized or avoided.
We do know that although anyone can develop glaucoma, certain groups are at greater risk. The likelihood of developing glaucoma increases if you:
- Have a relative with glaucoma
- Very nearsighted
- Over 35 years old.
In fact, everyone should be checked for glaucoma around age 35 and again at age 40. Those that have any of these risk factors should be checked at least every one to two years. Everyone over the age of 60 should have a check up for glaucoma at least every year or two.
The test to measure internal eye pressure is quick and relatively simple. First your eyes are desensitized with drops. Then in a test that takes only seconds, the pressure in each eye is measured. Eye pressure varies during the day and from day to day, so the team at Suggs Eye Center may want you to return to measure your pressure over a period of time. Even if this test indicates that the pressure in your eye is within normal limits, your doctor will check a number of other factors just to be sure. Your optic nerve will be closely examined for any abnormal shape or color. If your doctor suspects glaucoma, a complete test of your visual field will be made to determine if there are any areas where your vision may be impaired. Records from this test will also be used to chart any progression of the disease.
The doctor may also look at the angle where the iris meets the cornea in a procedure called Gonioscopy. If the angle is narrower than normal, it’s a sign indicating you may have Narrow-Angle Glaucoma. If it is determined that you have Open-Angle Glaucoma or your pressure is a little higher than it should be, your doctor may recommend treatment.
Today there are three basic types of treatment to control glaucoma. Each is designed to lower pressure in the eye. These are:
- Laser Surgery
- Filtration Surgery
The decision of which one to use in your case depends on a number of considerations, including your:
- General Health
- Severity of Case
Today in spite of new and better treatments, glaucoma remains a condition that is not to be taken lightly. One of the most important factors in successfully controlling glaucoma is to detect it early and follow treatment instructions carefully. If you have any questions, please call the Suggs Eye team at 940-696-2733.