January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

glaucoma_300x200Glaucoma is pressure that builds up in the eye due to normal eye fluids not draining well. Over time, this added pressure can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness.

It’s a disease of the eye that can be easily controlled if detected early, however there are no symptoms or pain until the disease has progressed to the point of severe vision loss. One of the biggest problems with glaucoma is that it doesn’t affect your vision until it is too late to do anything about it.

Where should I go to get my eyes checked?
The best way to determine your eye health is to have an annual dilated eye exam by an eye care professional.

How do I find out if I have glaucoma?
There are a few ways to determine whether you have symptoms of glaucoma. One of them is where your overall eye health is assessed by dilating your pupils. It takes about 30 minutes for your pupils to completely dilate, at which time your eye care professional will use a piece of equipment called a slit lamp to examine inside your eyes. For you, you’ll feel as if you are looking through binoculars.

What is a glaucoma test like?
Your eye care professional will first put a drop of numbing liquid in each eye. Your eyes will numb immediately, and you will again look through another slit lamp, where a delicate piece of equipment called an applanation tonometer is mounted. The tonometer will touch your eye and measure the pressure. This only takes a few seconds — the most you might feel is the tonometer tickling your eyelashes as the doctor moves it toward your eye surface.

What if my eye pressure is determined to be too high?
Depending on how high your eye pressure is, you either have glaucoma or should be monitored by a professional to see if the pressure increases over time. If you have glaucoma, there are several ways of treating it, but there is no way to cure it. By detecting glaucoma early and starting treatment before your vision deteriorates, you can prevent glaucoma from affecting your vision.

What treatment options are there?
One of the most common ways to treat glaucoma is by using prescription eye drops daily. Follow-up visits will help you and your doctor figure out if the medications are working as expected. There are a variety of drops available, so you may need to try a few different ones at first before you find the right treatment.

When is surgery an option?
There are two different types of eye surgery that can be attempted. Neither is a permanent remedy, and it’s important to note that not everyone is suitable for surgery. If the surgery is successful, the results usually last for a number of years, meaning your eye pressure won’t require corrective eye drops until the surgical effects wear off.

The best way to check your eye health and determine a course of treatment, if needed, is to visit an eye care professional at least once per year. He or she can answer many of the questions you may have about glaucoma, including treatment options.

So don’t wait; while you can still read this, make an appointment for everyone in your family to see an eye care professional. Keep an eye on your sight and you’ll be grateful you did.




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Beth P. Stokes