Glaucoma – The Silent Thief of Sight

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Known as the “silent thief of sight,” glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that lead to a buildup of fluid in your eye, increasing pressure and causing damage the optic nerve. This can slowly and silently steal your sight.

Dr. Michael Wehmann, Ophthalmologist with St. Elizabeth Physicians, describes how the damage to the optic nerve effects vision, “The optic nerve acts like a television cable, sending images from your eye to the brain. When the cable, or your optic nerve cells, are damaged, the visual information is disrupted.”

According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, led only by cataracts.

There are two types of glaucoma—open or primary open-angle and closed or angle closure.

  • Open-angle or primary open-angle — the most common type of glaucoma develops over time and can have almost no symptoms until vision loss begins.
  • Closed-angle or angle closure — can happen quickly or gradually over time, and when occurring quickly the pain is often so severe it is usually seen in the emergency room, not the doctor’s office.

Early Detection of Glaucoma is the Key to Maintaining Vision

Dr. Wehmann recommends a regular eye exam to have your eye pressure measured and have the back of your eye examined. He adds, “A regular exam is essential to maintaining your vision as you age. Cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration are common conditions that can be treated, or the progression can be slowed so you can maintain a high quality of life. The key is early detection.”

Are you at risk for glaucoma? Everyone should have a regular eye exam but if you are at risk, be sure to talk to your doctor about your eye health. You are at risk for glaucoma if you:

  • Are over 40. If you are older than 60, you are six times more likely to have glaucoma.
  • Have a family history of glaucoma, if an immediate family member has glaucoma your chances of getting glaucoma increase significantly.
  • Are of African-Americans decent. African-Americans will often get glaucoma younger and are eight times more likely to develop glaucoma than Caucasians.
  • Have thin corneas. Thin corneas can cause an inaccurate reading of eye pressure.
  • Have had an eye injury. Injuries can cause glaucoma years after initial injury.
  • Have high eye pressure. Not everyone with high eye pressure will get glaucoma, but the pressure must be monitored and treated if necessary.

There is no definite cure for glaucoma, but if you are being treated appropriately, the progression can be slowed or even halted. Treatment can range from eye drops to laser treatment, to surgery, depending on your symptoms and stage of the disease.

Dr. Wehmann added, “If you are over the age of 50 and you haven’t had your eyes examined in a few years, make an appointment today. It could save your vision.”

If you haven’t had an eye exam in over 12 months, talk to your primary care physician or schedule an appointment at St. Elizabeth Physicians Ophthalmology.