JANUARY IS NATIONAL GLAUCOMA AWARENESS MONTH

Dr. Jim Martin 01/03/2014

old_woman_eye.jpgThere are over 3 million people in the United State suffering from glaucoma. That number is projected to increase to over 3.5 million by 2020. It is the second leading cause of blindness, behind cataracts, in the world today. To bring attention to this sight-stealing disease, the National Institutes of Health declared January as Glaucoma Awareness Month.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of disorders that share a common trait: a disease process whereby damage to the optic nerves occur over time.  This can be characterized by an elevated eye pressure but is not always the case.  The eye normally regulates pressure by adding fluid and removing fluid as needed. When this natural mechanism begins to fail, the eye cannot regulate pressure which can cause damage to the optic nerves.
 
Doctors classify this disorder in two categories:

  1. Closed-angle happens when the pressure begins to build suddenly. The patient usually experiences a great deal of pain and can lose vision quickly if it is not treated. In the U.S., this affects about 1 out of every 10 people with glaucoma.
  2. Open-angle usually happens at a much slower pace than closed-angle. The eye begins to have small, unnoticeable problems with pressure. Over time, the eye continues to have problems which causes damage to the optic nerves. Many people do not realize they have the issue until they experience significant vision loss.


How is Glaucoma Detected?

Glaucoma can be detected in a variety of ways;  however, the eye doctor may employ multiple tests/procedures in order to determine whether or not a patient has glaucoma or has some other disease that appears like glaucoma.  One instrument routinely used is called Optical Coherence Tomographer (OCT). It is one of the latest advances in scanning technology that maps the anatomy of the optic nerve head. This allows the doctor to detect the earliest signs of glaucoma.

How does Glaucoma Affect Vision?

In glaucoma’s earliest stages the person will not realize their eyes are affected.  It is only after the disease has advanced that the affected person will start losing their peripheral vision (the ability to see to the side of where they are focusing). It will begin on the outermost edge and gradually work its way in. If left untreated, the vision loss can create tunnel vision where only a small area, straight ahead, is visible. Eventually, if the patient does not receive treatment, the small field will close as the optic damage progresses.

What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

With open angle glaucoma, most people do not detect any symptoms until they experience significant vision loss. With closed angle glaucoma, the symptoms are sudden and quite dramatic: blurred vision, appearance of a rainbow circle in the field of vision, severe pain in the eye and/or head, severe nausea, and significant blurring of their vision. Both conditions need immediate care from an eye doctor.

What should I do if I Suspect I have Glaucoma?

The eye care specialists at Broome Optical in Amarillo, Texas have access to state of the art technology and equipment to detect and diagnose glaucoma. An OCT and computerized visual field instruments are available at our office. If you suspect you have glaucoma, do not hesitate to contact us today.

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