Glaucoma

Glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness, refers to a group of diseases that affect the optic nerve. It can be present in one or both eyes. In the early stages of the disease, there may be no symptoms. Vision stays normal, and there is no pain.

Glaucoma has been nicknamed the “sneak thief of sight” because the loss of vision normally occurs gradually over a long period of time and is often only recognized when the disease is quite advanced. Once lost, this damaged visual field can never be recovered. If the condition is detected early enough it is possible to arrest the development or slow the progression with medical and surgical means.

Of the 67 million individuals worldwide who have glaucoma, more than 50% are undiagnosed–and diagnosis can be difficult even with a routine eye exam. Glaucoma affects one in two hundred people aged 50 and younger, and one in ten over the age of 80. One person may develop nerve damage at a relatively low pressure, while another person may have high eye pressure for years and yet never develop damage. Untreated glaucoma leads to permanent damage of the optic nerve and resultant visual field loss, which can progress to blindness.

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Glaucoma can be divided roughly into two main categories, “open angle” and “closed angle” glaucoma. Angle closure can appear suddenly and is often painful. Visual loss can progress quickly but the discomfort often leads patients to seek medical attention before permanent damage occurs. Open angle, chronic glaucoma tends to progress more slowly and the patient may not notice that they have lost vision until the disease has progressed significantly.

There are rarely any symptoms in the early stages of the disease so regular eye checks by qualified professionals are important. Ophthalmologists and optometrists will diagnose glaucoma on the basis of intraocular pressure, visual field tests and optic nerve head appearance. Patients will sometimes notice patchy loss of peripheral vision or reduced clarity of colors and these people may benefit from a review by an eye specialist. Call 321-727-2020 to schedule an eye exam or to discuss your risk factors for glaucoma.

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