What You Need to Know About Glaucoma
Part Two – Eye Pressure
By George Ulrich, MD, Colorado Springs Health Partners, Colorado Springs LIVING WELL Magazine
In the fall/winter edition of Colorado Springs SENIOR Magazine, we began discussing what glaucoma is, and what you should know about the disease. In part two of this series, we’re going to explore how it’s possible to measure how well the optic nerve works, in addition to talking about eye pressure.
It is possible to measure how well the optic nerve works by using an instrument that measures the visual field. The machine shows dim lights in different areas of the vision, and the patient responds by pushing a button. In about five minutes a pattern emerges. Areas where a person may not be able to detect light will appear. For most people with glaucoma, such areas appear on this special testing long before the person may notice vision loss themselves. These instruments then help detect glaucoma in the early stages.
So, what about eye pressure? When a person is identified as having glaucoma or being at risk for glaucoma, it is appropriate to lower the eye pressure from whatever level it happens to be. Doing this is the best way we currently have to prevent losing vision. There may come a time when we can make a difference in glaucoma by doing things other than lowering pressure. Such things are currently under investigation.
How is eye pressure lowered? This can be done with different kinds of eye drops. Most glaucoma eye drops are taken either once or twice per day. Another effective way to lower pressure is to use a laser to increase fluid outflow from within the eye. Still another effective way is surgery. This also works by increasing the fluid outflow from the eye. Sometimes these different methods are used together or in sequence. Sometimes surgery for glaucoma can be combined with cataract surgery.
Who should be most concerned about glaucoma? Individuals who have family members with glaucoma are more at risk. People over 65 and who have not had their eyes examined in two years are another group that may be at some risk. Certain racial and ethnic groups, especially individuals of west African ancestry are also at higher risk.
Glaucoma need not affect the quality of life, but it is important to identify it early in order to prevent permanent vision loss. It is estimated that there are one million undiagnosed cases in the United States. If you have concerns about glaucoma, these concerns can be readily addressed by an ophthalmologist. Again, the good news is that most people with glaucoma, once diagnosed, do very well and maintain good vision throughout their lives.
George Ulrich, MD, is a board certified ophthalmologist at Colorado Springs Health Partners, PC. You may reach CSHP at 719-635-5148.