Worldwide, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, but many people living with the disease don’t realize that they have it.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It is usually linked to a build up in pressure within the eye, and tends to be inherited. There are two main types:
- Open-angle glaucoma- This is the most common type, and may be called wide-angle glaucoma. With this type, the drain structure in the eye looks functional, but doesn’t work the way that it should.
- Angle-closure glaucoma- This type is less common in the West, but is common in Asia. With this type, the eye doesn’t drain right because the drain space between the iris and cornea becomes too narrow.
If left untreated, the pressure in the eye can build up and cause severe vision damage.
Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain. After the age of 20, regular eye exams are crucial for checking and monitoring your eyes for signs of glaucoma. Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral vision. As glaucoma remains untreated, people may miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead vision may decrease until no vision remains.
Who is most at risk?
While anyone over the age of 40 is at risk for developing glaucoma, there are several factors that can increase your chances of developing this condition, including:
- A family history of glaucoma
- Being of African, Asian or Hispanic heritage
- High eye pressure
- Being farsighted or nearsighted
- Previous eye injury
- Long-term steroid use
- Corneas that are thin in the center
- Thinning optic nerves
- High blood pressure
- Poor blood circulation
Although glaucoma is not curable, it is treatable. Glaucoma treatment is highly effective and can slow down or stop the progression of the disease. With early diagnosis and treatment, most people with glaucoma can retain their vision long-term.
There are a variety of treatments available to help relieve the intraocular pressure. There are drops that are used one or several times of day, depending on the prescription. Laser surgery can also be used alone or in combination with drops to help lower the eye pressure. In cases where drops of laser cannot get to the eye pressure low enough, surgery may be necessary and usually can be performed as an outpatient procedure.
At Piedmont Eye Center, Dr. Ceballos and Dr. Paauw are Lynchburg’s only glaucoma trained specialists who can provide this level of specialized care. If it has been more than a year since your last eye exam, book an appointment with us to be screen for this and other eye conditions.