January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Glaucoma affects between 3 and 4 million Americans and is the number two cause of preventable blindness worldwide. About 50% of patients with glaucoma are currently undiagnosed. It is sobering to think about how many of you reading this article right now currently have undiagnosed glaucoma. This article is a wake-up call for getting your eyes examined if you haven’t done so recently.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the intraocular pressure is too high for the nerve. This causes optic nerve damage which takes away both peripheral and central vision. The eye is an enclosed system, making fluid in one area and draining fluid through a filter in another area. Often glaucoma occurs when the filter wears out prematurely.
What is the treatment for glaucoma?
The treatment is to lower eye pressure, and there are many ways to do this. One treatment to lower pressure is eye drops. If you are reading this article and have glaucoma, chances are that you are on daily eyedrops. Another treatment is called selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), in which laser is applied to the filter. This improves fluid outflow and reduces pressure. SLT typically lasts about 3 to 5 years and can be repeated. In more severe cases a trabeculectomy can be done in which fluid bypasses the filter and drastically reduces pressure.
The newest treatments for glaucoma are referred to as MIGS (Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery). There are several types of MIGS available. Most work by enhancing fluid movement through the drainage filter but some bypass the filter entirely. MIGS procedures provide good intraocular pressure reduction with low surgical risk.
What are the symptoms for glaucoma?
As glaucoma often has no early symptoms, regular eye examinations are the best way to ensure prompt diagnosis. The American Optometric Association recommends eye exams at least every 2 years and then yearly if you are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma (i.e., someone in your family has glaucoma) or once you reach age 65.
How can I determine my risk for glaucoma?
If you or someone you love has glaucoma, it may be worth discussing these treatment options with your optometrist or ophthalmologist at Heitmeier Eyecare. If it’s been a while since you have had your eyes checked, there is no better time than right now and schedule with us today or give us a call at 504-368-7081.