Beyond allowing eye doctors to provide you with updated glasses or contact lens prescriptions, your annual eye appointments are a valuable way to detect potentially serious eye problems when they’re most treatable. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, and can only be detected early by your eye doctor. Here’s a bit more about the condition, and how it can be treated.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an umbrella term used for a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve and can cause vision loss. In some patient groups, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in adults over the age of 60. However, early diagnosis and intervention can make the difference between sight and blindness.
Most frequently glaucoma is caused by an increased buildup of internal fluid, and resulting pressure on the eye. This “aqueous humor” fluid typically drains naturally from the eye through the tissue where the iris and cornea meet. But when your natural drainage system is impeded, or this fluid builds up in the area for any other reason, the pressure increases. Gradually, this pressure can lead to blind spots in your field of vision, and deterioration of the optic nerve.
By the age of 40, the Glaucoma Research Foundation recommends all adults receive a baseline glaucoma screening. Based on your risk factors, your doctor will recommend how often you should be further screened. Glaucoma risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, eye anatomy, ancestral origin, previous trauma, and a family history of glaucoma.
How is Glaucoma Detected?
Many forms of glaucoma have no warning signs or immediate symptoms, as it is often a slow-developing condition. A dilated eye exam provided by an eye doctor during an in-office screening can, however, detect subtle changes to the eye that may indicate the onset of glaucoma. Special eye drops are administered during this procedure to dilate the pupils, providing a comprehensive view of your eye’s internal structure, including the retina and optic nerve.
Because what’s normal for one person may be different for another, only a comprehensive vision exam with a dilated eye exam can accurately detect early symptoms of glaucoma.
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
Glaucoma can cause irreversible damage to the eye’s optic nerve. Detecting and treating glaucoma early in its course is the best way to delay or prevent vision loss.
To treat glaucoma, your doctor may use the following methods to decrease further pressure on your eye:
- Prescription eye drops
- Surgical interventions including outpatient laser therapy or a surgery performed in an operating room
- Injectable medication implant
- Oral medications
Timely diagnosis and treatment offers great long term outcomes in patients with glaucoma. Don’t miss the opportunity to diagnose this important condition.