Glaucoma Facts & Diagnosis
Often called “the silent thief,” Glaucoma is a disease that steals your vision without you even knowing it. Only about half of the estimated three million Americans who have glaucoma are aware they have it. When glaucoma develops, there isn’t any pain, and the damage to your eyesight progresses slowly. In the vast majority of cases, your eye doctor diagnoses glaucoma during an eye examination when elevated intraocular pressure, or IOP, is detected.
Digital Fundus Imaging
Fundus photographs are visual records that document the current ophthalmoscopic appearance of a patient’s retina. One picture is worth, in this instance, a thousand words in the physician’s notes. They allow the physician to further study a patient’s retina, to identify retinal changes on follow-up, or to review a patient’s retinal findings with a colleague.
Fundus photographs are routinely ordered in a wide variety of ophthalmic conditions. For example, glaucoma (increased pressure in the eye) can damage the optic nerve over time. Using serial photographs, the physician studies subtle changes in the optic nerve and then recommends the appropriate therapy.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, which is made up of many nerve fibers, like an electric cable is made up of many wires. The optic nerve connects your retina, where images are projected, to your brain, where the images are interpreted. It is believed that elevated IOP damages the fibers in the optic nerve. If left untreated, this causes blindness.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
The precise cause of glaucoma is not known. A family history of glaucoma raises your risk of developing the disease. Other risk factors include age, African or Hispanic ancestry, past eye injury, and conditions that affect blood flow (migraines, diabetes, low blood pressure.
Fortunately, early detection of glaucoma and treatment with eye drops, surgery, or both, can slow the progression of glaucoma and preserve the vision you have. There are five simple steps that are essential to managing glaucoma:
Managing Your Glaucoma
After the age of 40, have yearly eye examinations that include the measurement of IOP.
If you are found to have elevated IOP, follow the doctor’s treatment plan to control it.
Continue to have your IOP measured at intervals recommended by your doctor.
If surgery is indicated, don’t delay it, and follow the surgeon’s instructions.
Continue to follow your doctor’s recommendations for monitoring and treating glaucoma.
While glaucoma sometimes is managed with eye drops that lower IOP, surgery is recommended for other patients. Glaucoma surgery improves the flow of fluid out of the eye, lowering IOP.
In the eye, a clear fluid circulates inside the front portion. To maintain a constant healthy eye pressure, the eye continually produces a small amount of this fluid (called aqueous humor) while an equal amount of this fluid flows out of your eye. If you have glaucoma, the aqueous humor does not flow out of the eye properly, elevating the IOP.
There are a number of surgical options that your glaucoma doctor may consider: