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Glaucoma is a serious condition in which the eye’s optic nerve deteriorates over time, resulting in vision loss and blindness. Glaucoma is a chronic condition; once you are diagnosed with glaucoma, you will need ongoing treatment to prevent permanent vision loss. While a glaucoma diagnosis can be seem a bit scary and overwhelming our vision care team is here to help. Since glaucoma also has few serious warning signs until later stages, it is possible to develop this condition without realizing it. For this reason, regular testing is key to prompt diagnosis and vision preservation.
There are several types of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma causes no immediate pain and vision will remain normal in the early stages. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of this disease; over time, eye pressure will gradually increase and damage the optic nerve. Since this condition happens so slowly, irreversible vision loss may occur before you even realize you have this condition. Angle-closure glaucoma is less common and occurs far more suddenly than open-angle. Acute angle glaucoma is a medical emergency requiring immediate care.
Glaucoma Risk Factors and Early Detection: Should I Be Tested?
Since glaucoma can cause irreversible vision damage before obvious warning symptoms are ever present, it is important to be aware of the disease’s risk factors so you can take preventative action. The following are considered to be risk factors: being over the age of 60; being African American or Hispanic; having a family history of glaucoma; having diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, or sickle cell anemia; and taking certain corticosteroid medications, including eye drops, for a prolonged period. Certain eye conditions, including nearsightedness, or having an eye injury are also associated with an increased risk for the disease.
Glaucoma is detected with a comprehensive eye exam. We will first conduct a visual acuity test and visual field test. Theses test measure the acuity of your vision at various distances and the quality of your peripheral vision. The loss of peripheral vision is an early warning sign for glaucoma. Next, we will conduct a dilated eye exam. During a dilated eye exam, drops dilate the retina for examination; we will also examine the optic nerve for signs of possible damage. A tonometry exam will measure the pressure inside your eye using an instrument called a tonometer. An increase in eye pressure is also a warning sign for glaucoma. Pachymetry is our final exam, which measures the thickness of the cornea. Based on the results of these eye exams, we will determine if you are at risk for glaucoma or need treatment to prevent additional vision loss.
Just because you have increased eye pressure does not mean that you will develop glaucoma. Some individuals are able to tolerate higher levels of pressure without developing optic nerve damage. However, increased eye pressure is considered to be a significant red flag. Consequently, our eye care team will closely monitor any pressure fluctuations.
For more information on glaucoma diagnosis and treatment options, contact us today at 435-673-5577.