Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness in the US, is a progressive disease which can lead to vision loss if left untreated. While the disease may have a scary reputation, it is manageable and easily monitored. Additionally, for those who may have experienced visual impairment due to advanced glaucoma, there are services to help.
What Causes Glaucoma?
The disease is characterized by progressive damage to the optic nerve, which is the important structure that carries information from your eyes to your brain. Typically, glaucomatous damage to the optic nerve is caused by high pressure of fluid inside the eye, making high pressures an important risk factor to monitor in the disease. Other factors, such as corneal thickness, family history, race and age additionally play a factor in the epidemiology of the disease.
What You Can’t See Can Hurt You
The trademark symptom of glaucoma is known as visual field loss – a slow, painless loss of peripheral vision. In most cases, patients with optic nerve damage resulting in a loss of peripheral vision won’t notice the visual field loss until the disease is far progressed, making glaucoma a worrisome disease. In cases of very severe, end-stage glaucoma, patient’s may be left with only a small amount of central tunnel vision. Once the damage to the optic nerve has occurred and the visual field has been affected, the impairment is irreversible.
What Can You Do About Glaucoma?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma, though the disease can be easily managed to prevent future vision loss. As high eye pressures are the culprit for optic nerve damage in most cases of glaucoma, treatment of the disease revolves around lowering the eye pressure and preventing future damage. Eye pressures can be lowered using specially prescribed eye drops; in cases of severe glaucoma, surgery may be required.
The most important factor in the management of glaucoma is staying ahead of the disease. Annual eye exams are vital in the detection of the disease and the initiation of necessary treatment. At Wilmington Family Eye Care, we monitor for glaucoma during every routine eye examination to ensure your eyes are safe and healthy. Additionally, for those patients who have experienced vision loss due to the disease, we offer Low Vision Services in order to maximize the use of vision.