Doctor: Glaucoma’s Symptoms Can Surprise People

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Many people who are diagnosed with glaucoma never realized they had it because the early warning signs aren’t apparent.

Only in the later stages of the disease will a person find the loss of peripheral vision.

If left unchecked, however, glaucoma can cause blindness.

“In the early stages, the only way glaucoma is detected is through eye exams,” said Dr. Patricia Adams, an Owensboro optometrist.

“People are surprised when you tell them that they have glaucoma because they don’t have any problem with their vision, and they don’t feel pressure in their eyes.

“But there is a peripheral vision problem that they don’t notice until it’s progressed too far,” Adams said. “And once there’s damage to the optic nerve, it can’t be recovered.”

The disease is the second-leading cause of blindness. Diabetes is the leading cause.

January is Glaucoma Awareness Month.

Adams said there are three simple tests for glaucoma that are given during eye exams. They are the measurement of interocular pressure, the measurement of peripheral vision through a visual field and observation of the optic nerve to determine its health.

“None of the tests hurt,” Adams said.

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve that carries images from the eye to the brain.

Glaucoma is prevalent among middle-aged Americans and the elderly, though it can affect people of all ages, even infants.

The American Optometric Association suggests people between the ages of 18 and 65 get their eyes checked every two years. After 65, the checkup should be done yearly.

“Typically, with eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration, it’s part of the aging process, so your risk increases as you age,” Adams said.

Although glaucoma cannot be cured, it can be treated. To help prevent further vision loss, glaucoma can be treated with eye drops and either a laser procedure or surgery.

Eye drops would be used first, Adams said, followed by an in-office laser procedure, if necessary, that would lower the pressure in the eyes.

–For more information, go online at www.glaucomaweb.org.

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Copyright (c) 2011, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.

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