Glaucoma is among the most misunderstood of eye diseases and is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. This progressive disease of the optic nerve causes a loss of peripheral vision followed by a loss of central vision. When identified early, glaucoma can often be successfully managed, so clearly a scenario of early diagnosis is the most ideal. What are the signs and symptoms of glaucoma, and what can you do to prevent it?
When glaucoma is in its earliest stages, the patient often doesn’t notice any changes to their vision. Our peripheral vision is used mainly for spatial awareness and motion detection and the loss of peripheral vision sensitivity seen in early glaucoma often goes unnoticed by the patient. For this reason, glaucoma is often termed the “Silent Thief of Vision.” When glaucoma is more advanced, central vision begins to be affected and blindness can result.
Patients over the age of 40 are the ones that most commonly develop glaucoma, though any patient of any age can develop glaucoma. Higher risk patients include those with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans, and Hispanics. Those patients with thinner corneas, those with a history of eye inflammation, and those taking medications that increase intraocular pressure are more risk for developing the disease.
As part of our comprehensive eye and vision examinations here at Vista Eye Care, we check all of our patients for glaucoma. This includes a careful evaluation of the optic nerve which is the structure of the eye that would visibly show signs of glaucoma to our doctors. Using high resolution imaging, we compare the appearance of the nerve each year to determine if even subtle change to the nerve is occurring. Intraocular pressure can be measured several different ways, and this reading is important because patients with glaucoma tend to have higher pressures.
If a patient is identified as a glaucoma suspect, we perform a series of diagnostic testing that includes gonioscopy, OCT imaging of the optic nerve, and a peripheral vision (visual field) test. If glaucoma is seen, the first line of defense if often eye drops designed to lower the intraocular pressure and prevent progression of the disease. Surgeries can also be used to further lower the intraocular pressure if needed.
The first line of defense in glaucoma is having regular annual comprehensive eye and vision examinations. Regular eye care can check for changes in eye pressure, side vision, or optic nerve appearance that could signal development of early glaucoma. Call our office today at (303) 450-2020 to schedule your annual check-up, or use the button below to schedule online!