Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight
Vision loss caused by glaucoma is progressive, painless and permanent. Those are three very scary words when it comes to vision loss. However, if caught in its early stages, vision loss can be prevented.
Glaucoma is a disease that slowly damages the optic nerve in the back of the eye which is crucial for sending information about our vision to our brain. The most common reason for this damage is from increased pressure internally within the eyes, but it can even be found in people with normal eye pressure.
Glaucoma is more common in people over the age of 40, but can even be found in infancy and early adulthood.
A Dangerous Misconception
The most common misconception about glaucoma is that patients think that they will actually notice something wrong with their vision early in the disease. They cannot. When glaucoma starts to cause vision loss, patients don't notice it. This is because vision loss starts in the periphery.
With very few exceptions, glaucoma, in its early stages, has no symptoms at all. There is no redness, pain or any noticeable vision loss early on. By the time vision loss is noticed by the patient, it is often too late.
The best thing you can do for your eyes is to have regular eye examinations. When we do an eye exam, we will look specifically for certain glaucoma risk factors such as high pressure within the eyes, optic nerve deterioration, family history, and other risk factors.
There are a few ways we can measure the pressure in your eyes. One way to measure eye pressure is with that dreaded air puff test. Although this test is not liked by many, it is important for assessing your risk for glaucoma.
Because glaucoma causes progressive, painless and permanent vision loss, if you have any risk factors for glaucoma, we will very likely have to do additional testing, as well as, check your eyes on a regular basis to ensure that no damage is occurring.
If your risk is above a certain threshold, or if you have any signs that glaucoma has already begun, appropriate action will be taken.
The way that glaucoma is managed is first through prescription eye drops that lower the pressure in the eyes.
These drops are taken on a daily basis and this is normally an extremely effective way to prevent damage.
In some circumstances, these eye drops are not enough and some surgical procedures are available that decrease the eye pressure as well.
In every case, if glaucoma is caught in its early stages, vision loss can be delayed or prevented altogether.
If you have any family history of glaucoma or if it's time again to have your eye health checked, please contact us at (403) 526-2020.
Written by Dr. Clark Hyde, 20/20 Vision Care