January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. The purpose of these various medical awareness months is to increase the public’s understanding of serious medical conditions. While many have heard of glaucoma, most really don’t know what it is, how it is diagnosed and what treatment options are available.
Glaucoma is an eye condition caused by damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye. It is often but not always associated with increased eye pressure. The optic nerve is like a cable, carrying visual information from the eye to the brain. If it is damaged, permanent vision loss may occur. Unfortunately, glaucoma has no symptoms until up to 40% of the side or peripheral vision has been lost.
Over 2.2 million Americans have glaucoma but unfortunately up to 50% of them are unaware of it. Glaucoma is a leading cause of preventable blindness which is why early diagnosis is so important. It is most commonly treated with eye drops but more severe cases may require lasers or surgery. Glaucoma risks include: increased age, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a family member with the disease.
How is it diagnosed? As there are no symptoms, the key to diagnosis is to have regular eye examinations with dilating drops at least every one to two years. The reason dilation is so important is that it allows us to look at the optic nerve in the back of the eye. If the eye pressure is elevated or optic nerves are abnormal, extra testing is done to evaluate side vision and the health of the optic nerves.
Dr. Mark German practices comprehensive optometry at Lakeshore Eye Care Professionals with Dr. Martha Jay. For more eye care information call 262-241-1919 or visit www.LakeShoreVision.com.