Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States today. Sadly, more than half of people affected by glaucoma are not aware they have it. Symptoms develop slowly over time, so most people who have glaucoma don’t notice changes in their vision until it’s too late. As a result, it is vital to take a proactive approach by scheduling a full eye examination regularly.
Vision loss in glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is usually associated with increased eye pressure, known as intraocular pressure. It can affect anyone, but is more common as we age, if a parent or sibling has glaucoma, or in people who have diabetes or hypertension. People of African or Hispanic ethnicity are also at higher risk.
In America, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, especially when it is undiscovered or untreated. There is no cure for glaucoma, but for most people, glaucoma can be effectively treated once it is diagnosed. Vision loss from glaucoma can not be reversed, so early detection is critical. Treatment usually involves ongoing use of eye drops, laser, and sometimes surgery.
Many will not experience noticeable signs of glaucoma in the early stages, as it develops slowly. The condition can, however, be detected through a complete eye examination. Key elements of the glaucoma exam include measurement of the eye pressure (tonometry), and evaluation of the optic nerve (ophthalmoscopy). Sometimes, a test of the peripheral vision (visual field) is recommended.
Some would say vision is our most precious sense. To keep vision going strong, we recommend having regular eye exams. Ideally, people over 40 should have an eye exam every two years and people over 60 or with diabetes, every year. Keeping the eyes healthy will help preserve quality of life and allow enjoyment of all the sights the world has to offer.
Christopher Tortora, M.D. is a board-certified ophthalmologist and host of “The Hawaiian Eye Show,” a weekly informational radio program about healthy vision. He and his colleagues at Hawaiian Eye Center are committed to educating the public about the importance of preventative eye care. Hawaiian Eye Center has been serving Hawaii for over 35 years with locations in Hilo and Wahiawa. To learn more about a variety of eye health issues, please contact Hawaiian Eye Center at SEE-2020 (733-2020) or visit the website, http://HawaiianEye.com where “life has never looked better.”