Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye condition that affects the optic nerve and will cause peripheral vision loss, which can leave patients with “tunnel vision” in the end stages of the disease. This vision loss is irreversible. In 2010, 60.5 million people worldwide suffered from glaucoma. It is estimated that 2.2 million Americans have glaucoma, but only half of them know it. Glaucoma is the 2nd most common cause of blindness worldwide, with an estimated 4.5 million persons who are blind from the disease. The scary part is that if things continue the way they are, this number will increase to 11.2 million by 2020, with a large responsibly being placed on you, the patient, simply by not getting a yearly eye exam. This number is devastatingly high because when glaucoma is left untreated, the disease will progress without the patient realizing, as mild to moderate stages are symptom-less. Once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed and vision loss is permanent. Glaucoma is commonly referred to as the “silent blinding disease” for this reason.

What people do NOT know about glaucoma
  1. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.
    • Even if treated on time, about 10% of patients will continue to lose vision
    • 120,000 Americans are blind from glaucoma, accounting for about 12% of all cases of blindness in the US
    • Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans
  2. There is not yet a cure for glaucoma
    • Lost vision cannot be reqained
    • With treatment, it is possible to halt damage and preserve remaining vision
    • The is a chronic disease so it must be monitored closely for life
  3. Everyone is at risk for glaucoma
    • Every person, every age is at risk for glaucoma
    • Statistically, your risk increases as you age however babies can be born with glaucoma
    • Every race or ethnicity is at risk for glaucoma; African American, Hispanic, and Asian populations have the higher risks
    • A family history increases your risk, especially if this is a sibling
  4. There are no symptoms to warn you
    • With open angle glaucoma (the most common type), there are no symptoms in the beginning to middle stages
    • Increased eye pressure is painless until it becomes extrememly high
    • Peripheral vision loss will go unnoticed until it is severe, as you will begin to unconsciously compensate by turning your heae to the side

Diagnosis is the first step to preserving your vision

What can you do? Schedule regular eye exams with your optometrist. During routine vision exams, the doctors at Southwest Vision screen for glaucoma by evaluating your optic nerve. In addition, every patient will have their eye pressures taken. It is important to understand that normal eye pressures do not protect you from glaucoma. It was once believed that the cause of all types of glaucoma was due to high eye pressure. However, as technology has advanced along with our knowledge of the disease, we are not finding this to be the case anymore. High eye pressure is now only considered a risk factor for glaucoma, along with age, race, and family history.

There are various types of glaucoma, but luckily the most common type (primary open angle glaucoma) is slow to progress and when caught early, most patients will not suffer from noticeable vision loss. The single best way you can protect your vision is to get tested, it is a simple as that. If diagnosed early, it is managed relatively easy with the use of eye drops. In more severe stages, laser and surgical options may be needed to further prevent vision loss.

At Southwest Vision we have partnered with the top glaucoma surgeons in Austin as we are dedicated to preserving your vision. If your glaucoma can no longer be managed with eye drops alone, you will continue to be in good hands as our partnered surgeons are some of the most advanced in the field. Since glaucoma cannot be cured the most devastating consequences can be prevented by simply getting your eyes checked yearly.

Sources:
www.worldglaucoma.org (World Glaucoma Association)
www.who.int/en (World Health Organization)

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Posted in Eye Disease
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