Glaucoma patients - care and treatment
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma patients suffer from the buildup of internal eye pressure (known as intraocular pressure), which can damage the eye's optic nerve. Damage to the optic nerve can be extremely serious, as the optic nerve transmits visual information to the brain.
The tragic result of glaucoma is decreased ability to see at the edges of your vision, damaging your peripheral vision. One of the earliest life consequence of glaucoma is the loss of the ability to drive a car, which can greatly impact your ability to live life the way you want. As glaucoma gets worse, progressive damage may lead to blindness. Once you lose vision to glaucoma it is permanent. Nothing can get your vision back, which is why prevention is so critical.
In fact, glaucoma creates at least some vision loss in more than half of the approximately 2.5 million Americans estimated to have glaucoma and is the second leading cause of blindness.
Doctors call glaucoma "silent thief of sight," because most types of glaucoma typically cause no pain and produce no symptoms until noticeable and permanent vision loss occurs. In the early stages, the only way to detect glaucoma is to see your eye doctor for an eye health exam in which the doctor routinely checks for glaucoma.
However, with a type of glaucoma known as acute angle-closure glaucoma sudden symptoms can cause include blurry vision, halos around lights, intense eye pain, nausea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, make sure you see an eye doctor or visit the emergency room immediately so steps can be taken to prevent permanent vision loss.
Early detection in an eye exam is critical to prevent blindness
Early detection is key because if caught early glaucoma can be managed and its progress halted. But there are virtually no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. That is why early detection is only possible through a complete eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
Diagnosis, Screening and Tests for Glaucoma
During a routine eye exam, Dr. Randhawa and her associate doctors use a tonometer to measure your intraocular pressure. Your eye typically is numbed with eye drops, and a small probe gently rests against your eye's surface.
High eye pressure is an indicator of a problem with the amount of fluid in the eye. Either the eye is producing too much fluid, or it's not draining properly.
Normally, the pressure in the eye should be below 21 mmHg (millimeters of mercury).
If your pressure is higher than 30 mmHg, your risk of glaucoma damage is 40 times greater than someone with an IOP of 15 mmHG or lower.
Glaucoma can be successfully treated and managed. The first step is to visit a doctor do ensure that you are not a victim of the "silent thief of sight."
Tragic stories of vision loss from glaucoma
An article in the Toronto Star presented the following story that puts a human face on the tragedy that can occur if one ignores the need for eye exams as well as how fortunate you can be if you see your optometrist:
'Keith Henderson, 62, a retired millwright in Alvinston, Ont., is fortunate. Ten years ago his brother was diagnosed with advanced glaucoma, which prompted Henderson to see an optometrist and request extra vigilance. Extra tests — which he had to pay for — showed he had high pressure. He eventually had prophylactic laser treatment to relieve the pressure.
“I won’t lose my eyesight to glaucoma because of what has been done,” says Henderson.
'"Henderson’s brother, Larry, now 65, is just about completely blind now, he says. The factory worker, was 55 when diagnosed, didn’t know to get regular exams.
“He didn’t get checked because he didn’t have coverage and then it started to get severe,” Henderson says. “They’ve got him as good as they could get him, but he’s lost a terrific amount of his vision.”
"Diagnoses before there is vision loss is key. For patients, who catch it early and are diligent with treatment, vision can be preserved, Buys says.
'Too many are doing it too late. “In a country that boasts of universal health care, our patients are coming in with already serious and significant loss of vision,” Hutnik says.'