VOL. 129 | NO. 108 | Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Glaucoma’s Effects Have Broad Reach
DR. CHRISTOPHER BORGMAN | Special to The Daily News
In today’s realm of eye care, ocular health care providers cannot discuss ocular diseases without the mention of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a broad topic and encompasses many primary and secondary causes. In simple terms, glaucoma is a condition in which the pressure inside the eye is too high and hence damages the optic nerve (which carries visual signals from the eye to the brain).
This leads to slow, painless vision loss over time, which typically affects a person’s nasal and peripheral vision first. The often-scary part is that patients typically will not notice any vision loss until the disease process has already caused significant damage to the eye.
Statistics show glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It’s estimated that there are over 3 million Americans with glaucoma but only half know they have it!
This is a large population of people in which treatment would be a large benefit. Current estimates show that about 120,000 people in the U.S. are blind from glaucoma, which accounts for 9 percent to 12 percent of all cases of blindness in the U.S.
There are certain risk factors which put individuals at higher risk of developing glaucoma. Being older than 60 years, a close relative with glaucoma, increased intraocular pressure, a history of trauma to the eyes, a history of oral, nasal, or topical steroid use (including eye drops), and even ethnicity put individuals at higher risk for glaucoma. In fact, glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African-Americans than in Caucasians.
Treatment for glaucoma typically involves eye drops to lower the pressure in the eye. Other treatments available in addition to eye drops are laser treatments and surgical procedures to further decrease pressure inside the eye.
The primary goal of therapy is not to bring back any lost vision (as vision loss from glaucoma is irreversible), but to either stop the glaucomatous damage in its tracks completely and/or dramatically slow down the disease process so that individuals’ quality of lives and remaining vision will not be affected in their lifetimes.
As glaucoma is a painless disease that typically has no symptoms that patients are aware of until late in the disease process, reason would dictate that proactive patients who undergo consistent and regular eye exams by an eye care provider have the best chances of maintaining vision.
A well-trained eye doctor with the help of today’s technological advancements in eye care can detect most of the earliest stages of glaucoma, therefore allowing treatment to be instituted even earlier in the disease process. Logically, this would allow patients with glaucoma to enjoy their remaining vision for years to come.
Dr. Christopher Borgman is a clinical instructor at The Eye Center at the Southern College of Optometry, www.tec.sco.edu.