GLAUCOMA:

Pe­ri­odic ex­ams by an oph­thal­mol­o­gist

Milwaukee Health - - STAY WELL -

Here’s an eye-open­ing statis­tic: Of the 3 mil­lion or so Amer­i­cans with glaucoma – the sec­ond lead­ing cause of blind­ness – half are walk­ing around un­di­ag­nosed. That’s be­cause the most preva­lent form of the dis­ease, called pri­mary open-an­gle glaucoma, shows no symp­toms in its early stages. This pro­gres­sive eye dis­ease can dam­age the op­tic nerve, which trans­mits in­for­ma­tion from the eye to the brain to form an im­age.

Glaucoma oc­curs from a slow, pain­less buildup of fluid in the eye caused by a com­pro­mised drainage path­way, ac­cord­ing to Dr. Sar­wat Salim, a Mil­wau­kee oph­thal­mol­o­gist. That fluid in­creases “in­traoc­u­lar pres­sure,” or IOP, which over enough time leads to op­tic nerve dam­age and vi­sion loss. “The first hint that some­thing is wrong is the grad­ual loss of pe­riph­eral [side] vi­sion, but typ­i­cally peo­ple don’t know they have it un­til the vi­sion loss is se­vere,” Salim says. Risk fac­tors for glaucoma in­clude ad­vanced age, a fam­ily his­tory of glaucoma, hy­per­ten­sion, di­a­betes, long-term steroid use or be­ing of African or Latino de­scent.

While glaucoma can’t be pre­vented or cured, it can usu­ally be con­trolled with pre­scrip­tion eye drops. (If not, a laser or sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dure is re­quired.) This is why the Amer­i­can Academy of Oph­thal­mol­ogy recommends a com­plete eye exam by an oph­thal­mol­o­gist ev­ery two years start­ing at age 40, or ear­lier if you’re at risk. This exam in­cludes a vis­ual acu­ity test, tonom­e­try (to mea­sure IOP), go­nioscopy (to as­sess the drainage path­way), an in­spec­tion of the op­tic nerve and a vis­ual field test to gauge loss of pe­riph­eral vi­sion.

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