Glaucoma don’t Lose Sight the Importance of Eye Exams

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Make that New Year resolution that can save your sight! Get your vision tested this year.

Many people are not aware glaucoma in its early stage has no symptoms. The only way to detect it is through your eye exam.

According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation more than 3 million people living in the Unites States have glaucoma. Add to this over 60 million people throughout the world. It is estimated that half of these people don’t even know they have glaucoma. Being of the baby boomer generation these aging issues concern me.

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes and not for diagnosis.

 

The National Eye Institute says the number of glaucoma cases will increase about 58 percent by 2030. An epidemic of blindness has been seen with these numbers going up.

To preserve your vision it is so important to go for your eye exam. By getting early treatment the damage can often be stopped and your vision loss progression is protected. According to the World Health Organization about 4.5 million people across the world have become blind because of glaucoma.

 

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which silently sneaks after your vision. So when the vision is lost its permanent. And what’s scary, we can lose about 40% of our vision without noticing.

Glaucoma leads in causes of blindness that aren’t reversed. It affects African Americans at 6 to 8 times more than Caucasians. Also these numbers are high among Asians and Latinos.

Open-angle glaucoma is more common and is age related although glaucoma can affect any age group of people.

The optic nerve is damaged leading to vision loss. The nerve connects with other nerves mainly transmitting images from the rod and cone cells to the brain.

Currently there is no cure for glaucoma. To slow or prevent more vision loss medication or surgery is used. Glaucoma treatment depends on which type and other factors. It is vital to catch early because it can lead to blindness.

These conditions have a connection to glaucoma:

  • Cataract
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Astigmatism
  • Retinal Detachment
  • Low vision
  • Near Sightedness

Types of Glaucoma

Glaucoma consists of two major types; primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma. These are measured by a higher intraocular pressure (IOP) inside the eye.

Secondary glaucoma is any case where the result of optic nerve damage and vision loss was caused or contributed by a disease first that increased eye pressure.

female with phoropter in front of her
female with phoropter in front of her photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels

Importance of Regular Eye Exams

The best protection of your sight from glaucoma is to make sure you have had your annual eye exam. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision. Keeping track of any changes in your vision is key.

Usually there is a significant loss in vision before it is noticeable. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma you can start treatment right away. Because more vision loss eventually leads to blindness.

People having these sudden symptoms, which may be caused by angle-closure glaucoma, should seek medical help immediately.

  • Extreme eye pain
  • Nausea (upset stomach)
  • Red eye
  • Blurry vision

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

It is essential that these higher risk groups have their annual eye exam which may help in preventing unnecessary vision loss.

People of African, Asian and Hispanic descent are at higher risk. Among African Americans glaucoma leads as the main cause of blindness. And with older Hispanics the risk is almost as high.

Other people at high risk are those over 60, family members of those diagnosed with glaucoma and those who are extremely near-sighted.

If you have these conditions they also present a risk for glaucoma:

  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor blood circulation
female looking into tonometer
female looking into tonometer photo by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels

The Glaucoma Exam

Your doctor can help with determining how often you should have an eye exam and which. There are two regular routine eye exams for checking glaucoma; tonometry and ophthalmoscopy.

In order to be diagnosed with glaucoma five steps need to be included with the exam.

 

Tonometry examines the inner eye pressure. Eye drops are given to numb the eye. To measure the inner eye pressure a device referred to as a tonometer is used by either the doctor or technician. Either a tiny device or a warm poof of air provides a bit of pressure to the eye.

The normal range of pressure is 12-22 mm Hg (“mm Hg” is for millimeters of mercury the scale of record eye pressure). Usually cases of pressure over 20mm Hg are diagnosed as glaucoma. Since eye pressure in each individual is unique, some have glaucoma even at pressures of 12-22mm Hg.

Ophthalmoscopy is a diagnostic procedure to help your doctor view glaucoma damage of your optic nerve. The eye is dilated. Then your doctor looks through your eye to exam the optic nerves shape and color.

A small device that has a light at the end is used by the doctor to light and magnify the optic nerve. In the case of your intraocular pressure not being in the normal range or the optic nerve is looking different; your doctor may order one or two additional glaucoma exams such as perimetry and gonioscopy.

Perimetry a visual field test where a map is made of your total vision field, helping your doctor determine if your vision has been affected by glaucoma.

In this test you are instructed to look straight ahead while a lighted spot repeatedly appears at different locations of your peripheral vision while drawing your visual map.

At times the light will move in or around your blind spot. You shouldn’t be too concerned about this it’s a normal part of the test.

Your doctor may have this test repeated to compare results. After a glaucoma diagnosis this test is usually done once or twice yearly to see if any changes to your vision have occurred.

Gonioscopy a diagnostic exam to determine if the angle where the iris connects with the cornea is either open and wide versus narrow and closed.

Eye drops are given to numb the eye. Gently positioned on the eye is a hand-held contact lens. This contains a mirror showing the doctor the angle.

If the angle is closed and blocked between the iris and cornea this could be a sign of angle-closure or acute glaucoma. If the angle appears wide and open this could be a sign of open-angle or chronic glaucoma.       

 

Pachymetry measures the thickness of your cornea which is the transparent window of your eye located in front. This is an easy and painless test. A pachymetry exam takes around a minute to measure both of your eyes.

A pachymeter (probe) is gently positioned at the front of your eye to take a measurement of its thickness. Corneal thickness can potentially influence eye pressure readings. The measurement helps your doctor to come up with a treatment right for you.

It is not always easy to determine a glaucoma diagnosis. Doctors have to evaluate many factors. Most importantly is the concern of protecting your sight. You may even be referred to a glaucoma specialist

To request a free brochure about glaucoma from Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Were you aware all this was going on during your eye exam? Have you gone for yours this year?

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Header Photo female looking in autorefractor by Ksenia Chernaya from Pexels

Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fourteen years.
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