January 16, 2013

January is glaucoma awareness month. Raising awareness of what glaucoma is, what it does, and how it is treated is especially important this month. While there isn’t one single “type” of glaucoma, the disease, in its varied forms, often has the same symptoms and results on ocular health and vision. The most common form of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for approximately 90% of all cases.

What is glaucoma and how is it treated?

Glaucoma is an eye disease in which eye pressure can rise, the optic disc can develop a “cupped” appearance, and the affected eye(s) may lose peripheral vision. Peripheral losses may vary from minimal, which may not impact daily life and may not even be noted from a subjective standpoint, to severe, which can limit visual capabilities and can decrease quality of life. Depending on the severity and type of glaucoma, your eye doctor may suggest a number of treatments ranging from close monitoring to eye drops to surgical intervention. For a more in-depth look at glaucoma, visit this link: 

Who is at risk?

Glaucoma can be a congenital disorder, meaning, patients can be born with glaucoma; glaucoma can also be developed later in life, even as a result of an injury to the eye. While anyone can have or develop glaucoma, patients with a family history of the disease are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma; patients with a first-generation relative (parent, sibling, child) with glaucoma should be aware of their increased risk and should follow accordingly with their eye care provider. In our office, patients over the age of 18, regardless of possible genetic disposition, are tested during their routine exams for visual field losses; it is important that testing is done as glaucoma treatment is best begun within the earliest stages of the disorder.

How is glaucoma monitored?

While there are many methods for monitoring glaucoma, recurrent testing for progression can reduce significance of losses, if treatment suggested is followed. In our office, testing for a patient with glaucoma can consist of mappings of the optic disc, photographic tracking, and field of vision testing.

Glaucoma is considered a “silent” disorder; although it can affect comfort, clarity, and quality of vision, it is most often associated with loss of peripheral, or side, vision. Because losses can go unnoticed from a subjective standpoint, close monitoring from a qualified eye care professional is warranted, especially if there is a concern for development or progression of the disorder. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no cure for glaucoma and fields of vision lost to the disease’s effects are permanently lost. Patients who have glauoma or are suspected to have it are urge to take this concern seriously and follow closely with their eye doctor.