January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Glaucoma: You May Not See It Coming

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time that is particularly important to seniors who are at a higher risk of suffering from this disease. Your risk of glaucoma increases once you reach the age sixty, and for some high-risk groups, regular screenings should begin at age 40. Detecting and treating glaucoma is usually quite simple.

Glaucoma occurs when the fluid in your eye does not circulate as it should, causing internal eye pressure to increase. The fluid then places excess pressure on the optic nerve, which can permanently damage it and cause vision loss. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, you do not have to lose your sight, however. Your doctor can prescribe various treatments and medications to lower your eye pressure and preserve your vision. Protecting yourself from glaucoma requires that you be vigilant and get routine eye exams, particularly as you age.

Screenings

Glaucoma rarely has any symptoms, especially in the early stages. You cannot feel the increased pressure, and by the time you notice vision loss, the glaucoma is at an advanced stage. The lack of symptoms makes this eye disease more dangerous since people do not know they need treatment.

If you have a family history of glaucoma, your optometrist or ophthalmologist will begin regular screenings around age 40. If you are Hispanic, African American or Asian, your doctor may start screenings earlier because all three groups are higher risk.

Your medical professional may do a simple tonometry test to check your eye pressure. They will insert drops into your eyes and then apply pressure to them using a tonometer, a small, painless device. If your pressure is over 20mm Hg, the doctor will probably do more tests to determine if you have glaucoma or just a naturally high reading. The tests are simple, quick and painless.

Treatments

Depending on your individual pressure, lifestyle and medical history, the doctor will prescribe either eye drops, pills or laser surgery to treat your glaucoma. In some instances, they may use a combination of treatments. If you are given eye drops, they have to be inserted every day, preferably at the same time.

Some patients require pills to lower their pressure, and they too have to be taken daily. If these medications are not fully successful, you may need laser eye surgery to “open” the drains in your eyes. This procedure is quick and done on an outpatient basis.

If all of these methods fail, the doctor may do traditional eye surgery where they construct a passage for fluid drainage. Most patients will not require this step, however. Many do fine on a regimen of eye drops alone.

Glaucoma may sound frightening, but it is simple to detect and to treat. The only thing to be scared of is not knowing if you have it. Untreated glaucoma can rob you of your sight. So in honor of January, make certain that you are up to date on your eye exams and that your eye pressure is within a normal range. Older eyes are more prone to problems, but most can be effectively treated. Ignorance of eye conditions is the only real danger.

Let Us Help

If you have questions regarding these or other concerns contact the Aurum Network at (978) 282-9551 or use our facility locator tool.

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