Disease Spotlight: Glaucoma

Hello readers!

Today’s Disease Spotlight will discuss glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a frequently heard term when at the eye doctor—in fact if you’ve been to the optometrist as an adult, it’s likely that you’ve been tested for glaucoma. Still, as often as we hear it, not everyone knows what glaucoma is.

Essentially, glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, and can eventually lead to vision loss. Glaucoma is often characterized by elevated intraocular pressures—meaning that the pressure inside of your eyes (due to fluid buildup) is higher than it should be. If you’ve experienced the “puff-of-air” test at the optometrist, then you’re already familiar with having your pressures checked! There are other methods for testing eye pressure that does not involve a puff of air. At our office, a technician will handle a small instrument directly in your line of vision, and that instrument (called a tonopen) will read your pressures.

Glaucoma is sometimes called the silent thief of sight because the disease often progresses very slowly, and visual symptoms may not be noticed until fairly far along in the process.  Vision is lost peripherally, meaning that individuals with glaucoma may experience a tunnel-vision effect.

For example, take a look at the picture below. If you’ve read this blog before, you know that this is one of our lovely technicians, Katie.

In the picture on the left, Kati and all the details around her are crisp and clear—you can see her shirt, the wall, the glasses hanging up behind her. In the picture on the right, you’ll notice that the detail has been lost, and you can only see the center of the image you once saw. This gives you an idea of what it might look like to have glaucoma.

Vision loss caused by glaucoma is not reversible, so preventive measures are the best route when dealing with this disease.

Interestingly, certain demographics are more likely to deal with glaucoma as an issue—individuals of East Asian and African descent are more likely to get glaucoma, and genetics seem to play a role as well.

Glaucoma is treated with drops that help to maintain healthy eye pressure, and regular follow-up visits to assess the stability of eye-health and vision.

Do you struggle with glaucoma, or have a loved one that does? Please feel free to ask us any questions, or share any experiences below!

For a great glaucoma resource, check out glaucoma.org. Here are two pages from that site that I found particularly interesting:

First, here’s a page that lists glaucoma support groups: http://www.glaucoma.org/treatment/glaucoma-support-groups.php

Reading not your thing? Check out these podcasts, detailing different subjects related to glaucoma: http://www.glaucoma.org/news/podcasts/audio-podcasts.php