The Silent Thief of Sight
No one likes to have something stolen from them. It is an affront. A violation. An unexpected loss. For anyone who has ever been a victim of a theft, the experience can range from irritating and inconvenient to life-altering and even devastating.
Now imagine the theft you experience is of something very precious to you. Your sight.
Glaucoma is a thief that can steal your sight. It has been characterized as a thief because very often, it shows no symptoms, so you don’t know you have it. And you don’t know you’ve lost vision until it’s too late.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition associated with pressure in the eye. It is characterized by damage to the delicate fibers of the optic nerve with slow vision loss that can lead to blindness. When a significant number of those nerve fibers are damaged, blind spots can develop in the field of vision. Most people don’t notice these blind areas until much of the damage has already occurred and some vision has been permanently lost.
Glaucoma affects roughly three million Americans, and half of those people are unaware they even have the disease. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in America today.
What Causes Glaucoma?
The exact cause of glaucoma is not known. But medically speaking, glaucoma is the result of the passages that normally allow fluid within your eye to drain becoming clogged or blocked. Fluid then builds up and increases pressure on the optic nerve. The delicate nerve fibers and blood vessels in the optic nerve are easily damaged by this pressure. The result is vision loss.
How Common is Glaucoma?
Worldwide, glaucoma is currently the second-leading cause of irreversible blindness. Unfortunately, about half of the people who have glaucoma don’t even know it! This is because the intraocular pressure can build up and destroy sight without causing obvious symptoms. For this reason, awareness and early detection of glaucoma are extremely important. Glaucoma can usually be successfully treated when diagnosed early.
Is There More Than One Kind of Glaucoma?
There are actually several types of glaucoma, but the main type is open-angle glaucoma. It is marked by an increased IOP, or pressure inside the eye. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma, accounting for at least 90% of all glaucoma cases, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation.
The loss of vision from open-angle glaucoma typically starts from the peripheral visual field, or “side vision,” which means it is often unnoticeable. For many open-angle glaucoma patients, the eye pressure gradually increases over time, and because the change in eye pressure is not abrupt, there is often no eye pain.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
While there is presently no cure for glaucoma, it can typically be controlled and stabilized by maintaining the eye pressure in a safe range. All current glaucoma treatments are directed toward lowering the eye pressure.
At Mann Eye Institute, each glaucoma patient’s treatment plan will vary depending on the type of glaucoma diagnosed, the degree to which the glaucoma has progressed, underlying risk factors and other variables.
“There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for glaucoma. Each patient is unique and has different needs, wants and lifestyles. For that reason, glaucoma treatment is very individualized.”
Caroline Schmidt, MD, glaucoma specialist at Mann Eye Institute
There are four main treatment options for glaucoma patients. Choices include:
- Laser treatments
- Minimally-invasive glaucoma surgery
- Conventional glaucoma surgery
For each patient, a personalized treatment and follow-up plan will be discussed and organized in partnership with your Mann Eye Institute doctor.
The goal of glaucoma therapy is to preserve your present level of vision and to prevent further peripheral, and sometimes central, vision loss. The treatment plan will vary depending on the type of glaucoma diagnosed, the degree to which the glaucoma has progressed, underlying risk factors, and many other variables.
At Mann Eye Institute, we want our patients to enjoy a high quality of life while managing their glaucoma. We have extensive experience in both the newer minimally invasive techniques as well as conventional glaucoma surgery so that glaucoma patients can See Life Better.
Schedule a comprehensive eye exam today to protect yourself from the silent thief of sight.