Glaucoma, What is it and how is it detected?

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. It is usually a painless, irreversible loss of vision starting with your peripheral vision (side vision). Basically, it is nerve loss caused by eye pressure; the higher the pressure the greater the chance of vision loss. Few people with glaucoma feel anything and since it usually affects peripheral vision first, patients often don’t notice anything until it is too late or advanced. The goal in glaucoma treatment is early detection and control. Not everyone with high pressures gets glaucoma and some with normal pressures do (called: normal tension glaucoma).

So the dilemma is how to find it early? Besides measuring eye pressure we look at family history, age, medications, systemic conditions (like sleep apnea), and ethnicity. We look for changes in the nerve and peripheral vision but peripheral vision changes may not be detected until after there has been a significant amount of nerve loss.

In the last few years, technology has been developed that can measure the nerve thickness of the back of the eyes (in thousandths of an inch), compare the thickness to normal eyes of the same age and look for changes in an eye over time. No single test can detect glaucoma 100% of the time but this is a much needed addition to our ability to detect glaucoma. We recently obtained one of these instruments (an OCT) and are using it to better detect glaucoma and other eye diseases earlier, like macular degeneration, another leading cause of blindness in the U.S.

If we think you have a higher risk for glaucoma we may recommend this test to evaluate your risk and to provide a baseline finding for earlier detection of nerve loss.

We are pleased to be able to offer our patients this new technology. Helping you to see better and preserving your vision is our goal.

Dr. LaFont

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