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Glaucoma threatens the vision of those over age 50

Glaucoma threatens the vision of those over age 50

By Randolph Fillmore

May has been designated “National Healthy Vision Month.” A good way to mark the occasion may be by taking a “look” at a serious but silent threat to your vision, especial if you are over age 50 – glaucoma.

Glaucoma is a progressive eye disease that damages the optic nerve when an abnormality in the eye’s drainage system causes fluid to build up, leading to excessive pressure and eventually leads to blindness. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults over the age of 60.

As glaucoma damages the fibers of the optic nerve, small “blind spots” may slowly develop. These usually begin in the peripheral vision – at the far edges of the visual field – where they are likely to go unnoticed as vision loss begins. The progressing optic nerve damage will, however, slowly impact the central vision. It may take years before the most serious damage has occurred, but once vision is lost, it cannot be recovered.

Early diagnosis of glaucoma is critical to treatment and slowing its progression to blindness. Unfortunately, with the most common form of glaucoma, which may be finally diagnosed only in its advanced stages, there are no early symptoms

There are treatments to slow down the progression of glaucoma, but there are no cures. A visit to an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor specializing in eye care, is your first step in finding out if you might have glaucoma and, if you do, begin a treatment plan to slow its progression.

Are you at risk for glaucoma?

Anyone can develop glaucoma, but there are some clear risk factors. Age is the most common among them. People in their 50s or 60s are at high-risk. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for African Americans, and people with a family history of glaucoma are also more likely to develop the disease.

Two kinds of glaucoma are most common

The most common form of glaucoma is “open-angle glaucoma.” It is caused by slow damage to the filter in the eye’s drainage canals as intraocular pressure (IOP) builds and damages the optic nerve. The damage is painless, and the progression may be so slow that, without extensive medical examination, it goes unnoticed.

Angle-closure glaucoma is caused by a rapid blockage of the eye’s drainage canals due to a closed or narrow angle between the iris and cornea where the filter is located. Acute angle-closure glaucoma produces noticeable symptoms of pain because of the quick buildup of pressure in the eye. Other symptoms may include:

  • Blurred or narrowed field of vision
  • Seeing halos or “rainbows” around lights
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache

Make articles like this an important part of your Healthcare Content Marketing Program!

Original, customized and compelling content around health topics like this one will set your health system or specialty practice apart from the competition, position your professionals as Subject Matter Experts and improve your ranking in search results.

For a complete list of health awareness events during May and June 2022, visit our pressroom, then contact us to exchange ideas.

Diagnosing glaucoma

There are several ways an ophthalmologist will evaluate for glaucoma. The visual acuity test, using the common eye chart (FXCTZ), measures how well you can see at various distances.

An examination for any damage to the optic nerve damage begins with drops to dilate the pupil to provide a better view.

“Tonometry” is a standard test to determine the fluid pressure inside the eye. A normal result of this simple test means that the pressure in your eye is within the normal range and you probably don’t have glaucoma or other pressure-related eye problems.

If your test comes back with a pressure reading that’s higher than the normal range, you may have glaucoma or pre-glaucoma, and be at risk of optic nerve damage. Your doctor will conduct additional testing to confirm the diagnosis and discuss treatment options with you.

The visual field test measures peripheral vision and other “blind spots” affecting sight. This test is conducted by having the patient look into a screen and click a hand-held device when the patient sees a small flashing light that appears randomly up, down, or across the screen. Lost peripheral vision – indicated by the failure to see a light flash and “click” the device in recognition of it – reveals vision damage potentially caused by glaucoma. Optic nerve imaging using digital photographs of the optic nerve can also indicate areas of damage and provide a “baseline” image. Future imaging provides a “timeline” for the progression of any optic nerve damage and can inform changes in treatment over time.

Treating glaucoma

Eye Drops

Eye drops are usually the first line of treatment. Some eye drops make the eye produce less fluid, while others lower IOP by helping fluid drain from the eye. Drugs to treat glaucoma are classified by their active ingredient. These include prostaglandin analogs, beta-blockers, alpha agonists, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, and rho kinase inhibitors.

Laser Treatment

For patients who cannot tolerate medications or for whom medication alone has not been adequate for lowering IOP, laser treatment is an alternative. If adequate pressure lowering is achieved with laser treatment alone, the need for a daily eye drop medication may be delayed. The effect of laser treatment is typically not permanent, however, and many patients will eventually require medications, and more laser surgery as an adjunct.

Surgery

A new opening can be surgically created to enable fluid to exit the eye. This can be done by creating a passage for drainage or by implanting a small device called a shunt to help drain the fluid.

The shunt can be used with conventional trabeculectomy techniques to standardize the operation and reduce the chances of the eye pressure getting too low in the immediate post-operative period, which is occasionally a problem with conventional approaches.

The Trabectome device removes tissue from the drain inside the eye (the trabecular meshwork) using an electro-surgical handpiece that disrupts the tissue.

Canaloplasty involves dilating the entrance to the outflow pathways in the wall of the eye (Schlem's canal) to construct an artificial fluid outflow mechanism within the eye wall to reduce the IOP.

Read more: Alternative surgical approaches to glaucoma

 

“See” about keeping your vision tip-top

If you are over age 50 and have never seen an ophthalmologist, or have not seen one recently, if you do one thing for your vision in the month of May, make an appointment before the month is out.

Read more: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Make articles like this an important part of your Healthcare Content Marketing Program!

Original, customized and compelling content around health topics like this one will set your health system or specialty practice apart from the competition, position your professionals as Subject Matter Experts and improve your ranking in search results.

For a complete list of health awareness events during May and June 2022, visit our pressroom, then contact us to exchange ideas.

About Consonant Custom Media

Consonant Custom Media provides content marketing and storytelling for hospitals, health systems, nonprofits, foundations and life sciences innovators who want to make more meaningful connections with their communities of interest. We create original content that is truly consonant, or in harmony, with our clients' brand values and drives profitable consumer action.Clients use our original content strategically, to reach specific objectives in perception management, physician relations, service line development, sales and donor development. 

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