CBA Vision Rehabilitation Services and Chautauqua Eye Care, Michael V. Landy, OD
Have you ever been to the eye doctor and they used a machine that blew a puff of air at the front of your eye? Why do they do that test? The answer is the test measures the pressure of the eye, a key piece of information when screening for glaucoma.
Glaucoma is when high pressure within the eye damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. The eye inflates itself with a fluid that is constantly produced and constantly drained. If there is an imbalance between the production and drainage of this fluid, the pressure goes up inside the eye, damaging the nerve cells that carry visual information to the brain. Once this damage happens, there is currently no way to reverse it. This makes glaucoma’s impact significant, as it is one of the leading causes of blindness in people over age 60, though it can occur at any age.
Untreated, glaucoma can have little to no warning signs and affect vision so gradually that it may not be noticeable until there is significant and permanent vision loss. This is why all eye doctors routinely screen for glaucoma so that the damage can be prevented.
The most common types of glaucoma are open-angle glaucoma, narrow-angle or angle closure glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma and traumatic glaucoma following an injury to the eye. People over 60 and those with certain genetic backgrounds are at higher risk for glaucoma, but everyone should be screened regularly. If it is determined that someone’s vision is at risk from glaucoma, there are many ways to prevent the high pressure from damaging the nerve tissue. The most common treatment is eye drops that lower the pressure. Many of these can be prescribed once per day and achieve adequate results. In addition to drops, there are several laser and surgical procedures that can lower the pressure. This is sometimes done as an alternative to drops, but also in addition to drops.
Because there is no way to restore vision lost to glaucoma, it is very important to prevent the damage before it happens. A generation or two ago, there were fewer treatments available. Now, with the advent of the most recent medications as well as development of minimally invasive surgical procedures, treating glaucoma has never been easier. However, that makes it all the more important that glaucoma not go undiagnosed as it would be a shame to lose vision to a disease that has become so much more preventable.