What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in the United States and is particularly dangerous because it can steal sight without warning or symptoms. Statistics released and reported by the Glaucoma Research Foundation indicates that over four million Americans have Glaucoma … and only half are aware they have it! The previous definition of glaucoma revolved around elevated eye pressure. In fact, an individual can have statistically normal pressures and still have glaucoma. And an individual can have statistically elevated pressures and never get glaucoma. Many nationally conducted studies indicate that the presence of optic nerve damage is the most accurate definition of glaucoma. Glaucoma causes the internal pressure of the eye to increase enough to damage the nerve fibers in the optic nerve and cause vision loss. In patients with glaucoma, for reasons which are not completely understood, these individual fibers begin to "die off" leading to a loss of peripheral and eventually central vision. Various risk factors such as high intraocular pressure, being nearsighted, and being of African-American descent can make someone more likely to be affected by glaucoma as they age.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Typically there are no symptoms. Damage occurs in a subtle fashion that many patients are unaware of the disease. Open angle glaucoma, which is the most common type of glaucoma, develops gradually and painlessly, without symptoms. As the disease progresses, a person with glaucoma will not notice any symptoms until late in the disease when vision gradually fails with: loss of peripheral vision; blurred vision and difficulty focusing on objects.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
Having an annual comprehensive eye examination which includes not only measurement of the intraocular pressure but also dilation of the pupil to allow for close examination of the appearance of the optic nerve is the best way to insure that you do not have glaucoma. At Barnhorst Eye Associates we use the latest proven technologies and methods to screen patients for glaucoma and we make sure our patients understand what their risks are and whether or not they require treatment. Additional sophisticated tests are performed dependent upon each individual patient’s glaucoma risk factor.
How is glaucoma treated?
Several treatments are available for those who do require it including eye drop therapy, laser treatments and surgery.