Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness affecting millions of Americans over the age of 35. Glaucoma is called “the sneak thief of sight” by eye care professionals because the disease typically has no symptoms until irreversible damage to your eyesight has occurred. It is estimated that half of the population with Glaucoma are not even aware that they have this vision threatening disease.
“Loss of vision from Glaucoma can usually be prevented with early detection and proper treatment. That is why regular eye health examinations for those who are at risk are so important," says Dr. Christopher Larson.
Glaucoma is a condition where elevated pressure inside the eye causes damage to the optic nerve. In the front of the eye, there is an area called the anterior chamber. Normally, clear fluid flows in and out of this chamber. Patients who have been diagnosed with glaucoma experience an increase in eye pressure when the passages that normally allow the fluid to drain become blocked. No one is sure why this happens but unless the pressure is controlled, permanent vision loss occurs.
Vision loss usually occurs first in the peripheral area, or side vision, progressing towards the central area of the visual field. This can create what is known as "tunnel" vision in patients with advanced glaucoma. Without treatment, glaucoma will continue to progress, affecting both side and central vision, and eventually cause blindness. At first, there are no symptoms, but as the disease progresses a person with glaucoma may notice his or her vision gradually failing.
A rarer form of glaucoma, known as acute glaucoma, develops rapidly and its symptoms include pain, blurred vision, loss of side vision, seeing halos or colored rings around lights and pain or redness in one or both eyes.
Although anyone can develop glaucoma, some people are at higher risk and need to be seen in our office regularly to manage the disease and prevent vision loss. Those who are at high risk for glaucoma include:
Glaucoma is diagnosed by a thorough medical eye exam. During your exam Dr. Christopher Larson, and Dr. Todd Larson will determine if your pressure is too high, and/or if the optic nerve appears damaged. Many times a patient's pressure can be read as normal and he may still have optic nerve damage and glaucoma. This is because the pressure in the eye can fluctuate and be high at one time in the day (typically it is higher in the morning) and normal at another time during the day. Larson Eye Care offers our patients the most advanced technology available to detect glaucoma at the earliest stage of development: The GDX Nerve Fiber Analyzer. In fact, GDX, a completely painless test, is the only glaucoma exam that evaluates the site of damage before you experience any vision loss.
“This important new technology works like a CAT scan. A laser beam scans the eye and checks for any changes which could signify the early stages of glaucoma. This allows us to manage the disease before any damage has occurred," states Dr. Christopher Larson.
During your exam, Dr. Christopher Larson, and Dr. Todd Larson will perform several additional tests including measuring the pressure of your eye, and mapping your field of vision to reveal any patterns that might indicate a change in your vision. Once diagnosed, glaucoma requires life long care and Dr. Christopher Larson, and also Dr. Todd Larson will need to see you frequently to manage the disease.
When glaucoma is suspected in a patient, Dr. Christopher Larson, and Dr. Todd Larson will typically prescribe eye drops to reduce pressure. How well the drops are working for you will be monitored for effectiveness over a period of time. In some cases, eye drops by themselves do not lower pressure and laser surgery may be indicated. Dr. Christopher Larson, and Dr. Todd Larson use advanced Laser treatments to create a new drainage passage allowing the fluid in the eye to flow more freely, reducing pressure in your eye.
Dr. Christopher Larson, and Dr. Todd Larson Answer Common Questions About Glaucoma
There is no single pressure that we can call normal for all individuals. When treating glaucoma, we choose a target pressure which we believe will protect and prevent further optic nerve damage. Presently, pressure of 21 is used in screening for glaucoma, however, any pressure needs to be interpreted in concert with the optic nerve appearance and visual field studies before a statement about a control of glaucoma pressures can be made.
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