Are You At Risk For Glaucoma?
A good majority of the patients with glaucoma show few to no symptoms until severe vision loss is present. So understanding more about this eye disease can help in detection. Let’s take a look at the disease, glaucoma treatment, ways to prevent or catch the eye disease early and who is most at risk for contracting glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a complex eye disease that can lead to optic nerve damage and visual field loss. You may have heard or read that glaucoma is increased pressure in the eye, and while that can be true, there are actually several different types of glaucoma.
Most who are diagnosed fall into two main categories:
- Open-Angle Glaucoma: This type typically has no symptoms until very late in the disease. There is a gradual loss of peripheral vision and if continued untreated can lead to complete blindness. Typically, high eye pressure is the main reason but even patients with pressure in the normal range can go on and develop this type of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma accounts for more than 90% of all diagnosed cases.
- Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This is a much faster developing and more noticeable form of glaucoma. The symptoms for this type of the disease call for immediate medical treatment. It is caused by closure of the drainage canals that lead to a quick rise in intraocular pressure.
- Chronic Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This type will be similar to Open Angle Glaucoma in which eye pressures slowly rise and lead to the same type of vision loss. Sometimes symptoms such as eye pain or blurriness might be present in some patients.
Who is Most at Risk?
Realistically, everyone is at risk for glaucoma, but there are certain groups of people who should be more aware and attentive to possible symptoms. High-risk groups include those who family member have been diagnosed with glaucoma, people over 60, those who are nearsighted, African Americans, and older Hispanics. Patients who have are or have been on chronic steroid medications, those with diabetes, and past history of trauma to their eyes are also at risk of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is six to eight times more prevalent in African Americans than in Caucasians and is the top cause of blindness in African Americans. Those reaching age 60 are also six times more likely to be diagnosed with the disease. If a family member has glaucoma, your odds of getting the disease increase by four to nine times. Also, your risk of developing glaucoma increases if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.
While ophthalmology offices encourage most people to get a thorough eye exam at least every two years, those who are most at risk for glaucoma should consider being tested yearly, including having your eyes dilated.
While it is not possible to restore the vision you have lost from glaucoma, seeking methods of glaucoma treatment through medicine or surgery can help prevent further vision loss. Depending on your ophthalmologists’ recommendations, you may only need medicine if the disease has been caught early.
Here are some possible glaucoma treatments:
- Prescriptions: For early stage glaucoma, eyedrops are the most common treatments. Eye drop medications help to lower the eye pressure by either allowing for better fluid drainage or slowing down fluid production in the eye.
- Laser Surgery: Your doctor may suggest laser trabeculoplasty, which can help fluid drain out of the eye. Essentially, a laser is used to etch burns that expand the drainage holes in the meshwork inside your eye. This procedure can be completed in your eye doctor’s facility. The effects of the surgery can eventually wear off. Trabeculoplasty is indicated for open angle glaucoma.
- Laser iridotomy: This laser procedure is indicated for those with the angle-closure types of glaucoma or those at risk of angle closure. This laser allows for a pressure equilibrium to occur between the two chambers of the eye to help treat or reduce the risk of angle closure which then allows for lower eye pressure.
- Glaucoma Surgery: Surgical procedures are last resort options to treat glaucoma if medicines or laser do not control the disease. There are a variety of surgical procedures that will allow eye pressure to be significantly lower and can perhaps in some cases eliminate the need for eye drops.
Glaucoma Diagnosis and Treatment
Ophthalmologists say the best way to protect and sustain your vision is to get a comprehensive eye exam. A variety of tests can be performed to detect glaucoma. A visual acuity test, visual field test, dilated eye exam, tonometry, and pachymetry each give your ophthalmologist an in-depth look into your eye health. Early diagnosis is key in the treatment of glaucoma and Vision Institute of Michigan can help. We use state-of-the-art technology in the diagnosis and treatment of our patients. Call today to schedule an appointment to discuss glaucoma treatment options.