According to the National Eye Institute, the number of American’s with glaucoma totals 2.7 million, a number which is expected to increase to 6.3 million by 2050. Early detection is key because the patients may have no symptoms until the disease has already caused irreversible vision loss. For this reason, glaucoma is sometimes referred to as the “silent thief” of vision. Due to the lack of symptoms, approximately half of all patients that have glaucoma are unaware they have the disease.
Causes and Risk Factors
- Age. Caucasian American’s at increased risk over 60.
- Race. African American’s are at increased risk over 40.
- Gender. According to the National Eye institute, woman make up 61% of all glaucoma cases.
- Family history. Immediate family with glaucoma increases your risk.
- Corticosteroids. Drugs such as prednisone, cortisone, hydrocortisone, and even some steroid eye drops can increase risk for glaucoma.
- Eye injuries. Blunt trauma to the eye can cause structures inside the eye to malfunction and rapidly increase eye pressure leading to glaucoma.
- Other factors and conditions. Some studies suggest that systemic disease such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease increase your risk. Other risk factors include eyes with thinner corneas, sensitive optic nerves, and certain eye conditions and diseases such as myopia and retinal detachments can increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
Doctors of optometry are at the front line of glaucoma treatment and management. At several points during an eye exam, the doctor may detect certain risk factors or abnormalities that point to a possible diagnosis of glaucoma. These factors alone may be enough to determine a diagnosis, however new and sophisticated technology allows doctors the tools to diagnose, treat, and manage glaucoma much more effectively. It is not uncommon for multiple tests and visits to be required to appropriately and accurately diagnose glaucoma.
There are many treatments and management paths a doctor may decide for your individual case. The advent of new technology as well as better evidence based guidelines, your eye doctor may choose that monitoring your eyes for changes may be the best way to determine when treatment is necessary, if at all. There is no cure for glaucoma, and many treatments such as eye drops, surgery, or a combination of the two may be indefinite. Therefore, if a doctor is able to monitor for the progression of the disease rather than starting treatment immediately you can rest assured that your vision will be safe from adverse changes even if immediate medical treatment isn’t needed.
- Prescription medications. Eye drops taken once or twice a day are often the starting point when treatment is initiated. However, oral medications are indicated in some cases.
- Surgery. To decrease eye pressure, sometimes surgical intervention is indicated.
- Implants. In order to help the eye drain the fluid properly, different types of implants may be surgically inserted into the eye.
It is vitally important to follow your doctors instructions on all treatment and future visits. Glaucoma is a very complex disease and often takes lots of information about your eyes and how it’s responding to treatment or monitoring in order to make the best decisions for your eyes. Depending on the severity and the progression of the disease, several treatment options may be implemented in order to reduce the risk of vision loss. Rest assured that your eye doctor has your best interest in mind and will keep your eyes safe and seeing their best for years to come. Learn more here, or click here to make an appointment with Rockwood Eyecare today!