Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that have in common a characteristic optic nerve disease and associated visual field loss. Elevated pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure) is the most common risk factor for developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States with more than 2 million Americans currently afflicted with this potentially blinding disorder.
Elevated eye pressure (intraocular pressure) is believed to play an important role in the development of glaucoma. Normally, the fluid in the front of the eye called the aqueous is continually produced and recycled at a similar rate. In the more common forms of glaucoma, outflow of this fluid is reduced leading to increased pressure within the eye. Prolonged elevation in eye pressure can lead to blindness.
Primary open angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and typically occurs in people over 40 years of age. It usually has a slow, insidious course with no symptoms noted by the patient. Eventually, as the untreated disease progresses, there is permanent loss of the peripheral visual field and ‘tunnel vision’ may occur. Acute, narrow angle glaucoma is a relatively rare type of glaucoma that occurs suddenly causing pain, redness, and loss of vision.
A complete dilated eye exam is essential to detect and treat glaucoma. Once glaucoma is suspected, a formal visual field test with an automated device called a perimeter should be performed. Treatment of glaucoma usually begins with topical eye drops, but if poorly controlled, may require laser surgery or advanced glaucoma surgery to lower the eye pressure.
The Role of Heredity
If you have a first degree relative such as mother or father, etc., with primary open angle glaucoma, your risk of developing glaucoma may be more than five times that of the general population. Glaucoma does not appear to be inherited in any particular pattern. Recently, researchers have made great strides in localizing certain types of glaucoma to specific chromosomes. Someday, we hope to base our treatment of glaucoma on the findings in these genetic studies.
If you or a loved one suspects you have glaucoma, or have a family history of the disease, please seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Diabetes Mellitus is a disease caused by defective carbohydrate metabolism and is due to the body’s inability to properly utilize insulin. Diabetes mellitus affects about 16 million people in the United States, and is the #1 cause of blindness in the United States, due to the fact that elevated blood-glucose concentrations can lead to potentially blinding conditions.
Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. studied nearly 200,000 Medicare beneficiaries and determined that just 53 percent of patients reported having an eye exam within the past year.
Blindness resulting from diabetic complications is nearly always preventable with proper intervention and treatment! The American Diabetes Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommend yearly eye exams for people with diabetes.
At Ophthalmology Consultants we care about your eyes, and we urge you to contact us immediately if you or someone you know may need to take steps to protect their vision.