When you are behind the wheel of your car, seeing the signs off in the distance and reading them clearly, the last thing you would ever consider is that you may be silently going blind. Most people with 20/20 vision say to me that their eyes are perfect and that they don’t need to have an eye exam. How could someone with 20/20 vision actually be going blind?
Glaucoma is an extremely common eye disease and is the worlds leading cause of permanent vision loss. Most people with this disease do not know that they actually are suffering a permanent change in their vision. There are no signs and symptoms of glaucoma. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about glaucoma is that it is not that difficult to treat in most cases if it is detected early. Unfortunately, there are far to many instances when glaucoma is diagnosed late in the disease process.
Let us try to understand Glaucoma a little bit better:
When too much fluid is going into the eye compared to the amount of fluid leaving the eye, the pressure inside the eye goes up. A great analogy to enhance your understanding is to think of the eye akin to a bath tub or sink. With water constantly going in and a drain for the water going out, an imbalance could cause the tub or sink to fill up to high. The water will overflow or increase the pressure on the walls of the sink or bath tub when it gets to high.
Unfortunately, this pressure pushes on the nerves and the vessels inside the eye. It takes some time, but this added pressure causes the nerves and the vessels to not work properly. When these structures stop working, the result is a permanent situation where you no longer see as well.
How Could Someone Not Notice the Loss of Vision?
The most disturbing part of the permanent vision change is that the type of vision that is lost first is the side or peripheral vision. In other words, when you look straight ahead, you can see things that are happening around you without moving your eyes; however, someone with glaucoma begins to lose this ability. Eventually, after the vast majority of side vision has disappeared most glaucoma patients then lose their central vision as well. The loss of central vision tends to happen all of a sudden.
What Can You Do About this to Avoid and Treat Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is easy to treat in most cases because we have special medicated drops that lower the pressure inside the eyes. These drops either increase the outflow of fluid from the eye or slow the inflow of fluid into the eye. With an annual eye exam, a doctor of Optometry can measure the pressure inside your eyes. Also, with dilating the eyes during the examination process, the doctor can screen for Glaucoma-vision loss. The use of these drops will tend to continue over time, but if a patient continues to follow the doctor’s direction, vision loss from Glaucoma can be avoided. Glaucoma drops are usually used once or twice per day in the effected eyes.
A Lot of people wonder why can’t they just not go to their primary care practitioner to get checked for Glaucoma?
The reason is because primary care doctors do not check the pressure inside your eyes. As well, A primary care physician does not look inside the eyes well enough to evaluate the extent of damage that is typically caused by high pressure inside the eyes. An exam with an eye care specialist is needed to access glaucoma properly.