Many people often think that glaucoma is an eye disease that affects only seniors. Glaucoma can strike adults even in their early thirties. Many of you may remember a famous Minnesota Twins baseball player named Kirby Puckett. In 1995 Kirby Puckett was the MVP of the World Series and the next year he was blind in one eye. At the age of 35 his baseball career was over. This was absolutely catastrophic for the Minnesota Twins, their fans, Kirby Puckett and his friends and family. Let the story of this baseball legend be a lesson regarding regular eye exams. Regular eye exams can save your vision, because glaucoma can be treated if detected.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that slowly and painlessly steals away your sight. Glaucoma is called the silent or sneak thief of sight because it has no symptoms. It does not make your eyes red or cause pain. However, it is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, and half of the people who have glaucoma don’t know that they have the disease and are not aware that they are going blind.
Causes of Glaucoma?
What are the risk factors for Glaucoma?
What Should a Glaucoma Examination Include?
The cause of glaucoma is unknown, but there are several risk factors that increase your risk of developing glaucoma. These include high eye pressure (called intraocular pressure, or IOP), older age, being African-American or Hispanic, and having a family history of glaucoma. Anyone with any of these risk factors should have regular eye examinations.
Glaucoma damages vision by destroying the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, and carries visual information to your brain for processing. When the optic nerve is damaged from glaucoma, you lose your vision. Your peripheral vision—or side vision—is lost first. If the glaucoma remains untreated, the vision loss creeps in toward the center, first causing tunnel vision, and then, eventually, blindness.
The cause of optic nerve damage in glaucoma is not known, but since most eyes with glaucoma have high IOP, it is likely that high IOP plays a role in damaging the nerve. IOP is a measure of the fluid pressure inside the eye. The eye is filled with clear fluid that flows in through a spigot and flows out through a drain. In glaucoma, the drain of the eye gets plugged, and fluid coming into the eye cannot get out, raising the IOP.
A thorough glaucoma examination should include the measurement of IOP. However, since some eyes can have glaucoma without high IOP, a careful examination of the optic nerve is also very important. If the IOP is high or the optic nerve looks damaged (or both), a special test called a visual field test should be performed. The visual field test shows whether or not you’ve lost any side vision to glaucoma.
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, treatment is available to save your vision. The goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower IOP and stop the optic nerve damage. Several treatments are available to lower IOP. These include eye drops, laser therapy, and surgery.
Glaucoma Consultations at Kentucky Eye Institute
Glaucoma can only be diagnosed after a comprehensive eye exam. If you have glaucoma, the doctors at Kentucky Eye Institute will design a treatment plan based on your specific situation. Typically a medical approach using eye drops is the first line of treatment. For these eye drops to work, you must take them regularly and continuously. Glaucoma medications can have side effects. You should notify your eye doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
- Red eyes
- Change in heartbeat
- Stinging eyes
- Blurry vision
- Frequent headaches
Glaucoma medications lower IOP by either reducing the amount of fluid entering the eye or increasing the amount of fluid exiting the eye. There are several different kinds of glaucoma medications, and each differs in terms of both its ability to lower IOP and its potential side effects. Laser therapy often is used when medications fail to lower IOP; it is also used for patients who cannot tolerate medications due to side effects. Recent advances in laser therapy have produced lasers so safe and effective that, for some patients, laser therapy is used instead of medications. If medications and/or laser therapy fail to bring the IOP down to a safe range, surgery is the next option.
What can I do about Glaucoma?
Are you seeking a new glaucoma eye doctor? Our Kentucky glaucoma specialists are readily available to discuss our glaucoma eye examination process and treatment protocol options.
This ophthalmology website resource is intended to highlight relevant glaucoma matters. This glaucoma eye information should not be interpreted as legal advice. If you have additional questions regarding glaucoma you can contact one of the Kentucky Eye Institute doctors.
Kentucky Eye Institute is comprised of both ophthalmologists and primary care optometrists. We invite you to read about our doctors on this website and explore the vast experience we possess as one of the region’s premier eye care providers. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us.
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