Dr. William Segal and Dr. Marc Lay at Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons may spend the majority of their time helping patients to deal with relatively routine vision problems, like the common refractive errors that can cause nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. However, there are also some conditions that are potentially far more serious. One of these is glaucoma, which is second only to cataracts as a leading cause of permanent vision loss worldwide. It is estimated that more than 3 million Americans currently have glaucoma, but that only about half of them are aware of it. Providing information about this all-too-common condition can be one of the best ways to help make sure that people find prompt treatment to minimize their future vision loss, so here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about glaucoma.
A clear fluid, called the aqueous humor, fills the space in the front of the eye between the lens and the cornea. Normally, this fluid constantly circulates through a mesh-like channel where the cornea and iris meet. However, if this channel becomes blocked, the intraocular pressure can build up, eventually damaging the ocular nerve itself. In most cases, this blockage is the result of an inherited defect in the structure of the eye, but it may also be exacerbated by a severe injury to the eye, an eye infection, a blockage of the blood vessels in the eye, or high blood pressure.
Who Can Get Glaucoma?
Unfortunately, glaucoma can affect anyone of any age, but certain groups do seem to be at higher risk than others. Studies have found that glaucoma is six to eight times more common in African Americans than in Caucasians and that individuals over the age of sixty are up to six times more likely to develop the disease. The most common type of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is hereditary, so those with a family history should definitely be checked. Patients with severe myopia (nearsightedness), hypertension (high blood pressure), or who have used steroids also seem to have an increased risk.
How Can I Tell if I Have Glaucoma?
Glaucoma can often be difficult to detect because there are rarely any early symptoms. As the optic nerve becomes more damaged, patients will begin to lose their peripheral or side vision, but this may go unnoticed until late in the progression of the disease, after the damage has already been done. The early detection of glaucoma is one of the most important reasons why everyone should undergo a comprehensive medical eye examination every one to two years.
How Can Glaucoma Be Treated?
Although there is currently no cure for glaucoma, early detection and treatment can significantly reduce the chances of permanent eye damage. Prescription eye drops may sometimes be sufficient to control the progression of the condition, we also treat more serious cases with the new Iridex CYCLO G6™ Glaucoma Laser System, the latest and most advanced laser therapy technology, or the FDA-approved iStent® Trabecular Micro-Bypass medical device, which improves the eye’s natural outflow and lowers the fluid pressure in the eye. The team at Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons is currently participating in a glaucoma research study that will test the effectiveness of a new form of glaucoma treatment. If successful, this quick and simple treatment could potentially provide relief for months or even years after only a single office visit.
If you have any other questions about glaucoma, or would like to learn more about the exciting new treatment options that are available, please feel free to contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons to schedule an appointment. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more information about how to keep your vision healthy.