Glaucoma - What You Need To Know
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the internal pressure in your eyes increases enough to damage the nerve fibers in your optic nerve and cause vision loss. The increase in pressure happens when the passages that normally allow fluid in your eyes to drain become clogged or blocked.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. It most often occurs in people over age 40. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans, and those who are very nearsighted or diabetic are at a higher risk of developing the disease.
in untreated glaucoma.
Glaucoma cannot be prevented but if diagnosed and treated early, it can be controlled. Vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. A comprehensive eye examination should include a test to measure the pressure in your eyes, an examination of the inside of your eyes, your optic nerves and a visual field test to check for changes in your central and side vision.
Examination For Glaucoma - Should Include:
- History evaluation. The doctor or staff will ask questions about your medical and personal history, as well as your family's medical history.
- Measurement of intraocular pressure (IOP) using an instrument called a tonometer (see photo below).
Other tonometers measure the intraocular pressure by directing a brief puff of air gently onto the eye. "air-puff" tonometers are frequently used as screening instruments since no drops are required.
- Examination of the optic nerve with an ophthalmoscope (see photo below).
- Examination of the visual fields (see photo below).
Some of these tests may not be necessary for every patient but some tests may be added or repeated more frequently if glaucoma is suspected or if glaucoma damage increases over time. In some cases, your doctor may employ additional high-technology instruments (OCT, GDX, etc.) to help asses your eye health.
Note: Because your eye may be dilated during your exam, you may want to bring sunglasses with you to your appointment. Dilation can make your eyes extra sensitive to light for a short time after your exam.
Who is at Risk?
Everyone should be concerned about glaucoma and its effects. It is important for each of us, from infants to senior citizens, to have our eyes checked regularly. Early detection and treatment of glaucoma is the only way to prevent vision impairment and blindness. There are a few conditions related to this disease which tend to put some people at greater risk. This may apply to you if:
- You are over 45 and have not had your eyes examined regularly
- Someone in your family has a history of glaucoma
- You have abnormally high intraocular pressure
- You are of African descent
- You have diabetes
- You are highly myopic (nearsighted)
- You have regular, long-term steroid/cortisone use
- You have a previous eye injury
- National Eye Institute
- American Optometric Association