Get the Facts About Glaucoma
- Glaucoma Awareness Month is an opportunity to recognize and spread the word about a disease that if left untreated can cause vision loss or blindness.
- Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and gradually cause the patient to lose vision.
- The best way to treat glaucoma is through early detection.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, which provides an opportunity to recognize and spread the word about a disease that, if left untreated, can cause vision loss or blindness. Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma and once vision is lost it cannot be regained. However, early dedication and medication and/or surgery can stop further loss of vision.
According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, more than 4 million Americans and nearly 70 million people worldwide have glaucoma. “This disease primarily affects the elderly; however, it can occur at any age. Those who are at the highest risk for glaucoma include those who are of African, Asian and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics and people who are severely nearsighted. If a member of your immediate family has glaucoma, then you are at a much higher risk than the rest of the population,” says John Rizzo, M.D., co-chief of the Section of Ophthalmology at Taylor Hospital.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and gradually cause the patient to lose vision. “Although there are several types of glaucoma, the two main types are open-angle and angle-closure. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure, or pressure inside the eye,” says Edward H. Bedrossian Jr., M.D., FACS, chief of the Section of Ophthalmology at Delaware County Memorial Hospital.
“There are no symptoms and vision does not change in the early stages of open-angle glaucoma. However, the longer it goes untreated people may miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral vision and eventually all vision.”
“Early detection and treatment is very important. As men and women get older, their eyesight changes. Visiting your ophthalmologist regularly reduces the chances of glaucoma going unnoticed or untreated if diagnosed, “says Christopher Williams, M.D., chief of the Division of Ophthalmology at Crozer-Chester Medical Center.
If diagnosed with glaucoma, treatment can include medicines, laser trabeculoplasty, conventional surgery, or a combination of any of these. “Medication can help lower pressure in the eye by helping fluid drain from the eye or cause the eye to make less fluid. Laser trabeculoplasty helps fluid drain out of the eye and can be performed in the physician office. With conventional eye surgery, a small piece of tissue is removed to create a new channel for the fluid to drain from the eye. Consult your physician to see which treatment is right for you,” says Nancy Crawford, M.D., ophthalmologist at Springfield Hospital.
For healthy individuals, Crozer-Keystone ophthalmologists recommend general eye exams once every two year. Always be prepared when visiting your ophthalmologist. It is extremely important to come to your appointment ready to provide you medical history, medications, eye history and family history. Unless otherwise specified, most ophthalmologist request that you do not wear contact lenses to your checkup. If you have questions, do not be afraid to ask. If you wear glasses, bring them with you. If you are experiencing eye problems, be as specific as possible when you explain your symptoms to your doctor.
For more information or to find a CKHS ophthalmologist who is right for you, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit www.crozerkeystone.org.