Glaucoma: Early Detection to Prevent Vision Loss
By Dr. LeRoy Popowski, O.D., Elite Vision, Colorado Springs LIVING WELL Magazine
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and it is estimated that over four million Americans have glaucoma, although many may not be diagnosed and recognize that their vision loss is preventable. Glaucoma is not a singular disease, but rather a group of diseases that cause characteristic changes to the optic nerve head and loss of ganglion cells and nerve fibers that result in specific peripheral vision loss. Primary open-angle glaucoma represents most glaucoma cases diagnosed in the U.S. Fortunately, vision loss due to glaucoma is preventable and when comprehensive treatment is initiated and maintained prior to significant nerve fiber loss, vision loss can be successfully averted.
Although elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) has been long heralded as a primary indicator of the likelihood of being at risk for glaucoma, recent research has shown that elevated IOP is indeed only one of several risk factors for glaucoma. Other recognized risk factors include: age, ethnicity, genetics, and anatomical and vascular factors that influence ocular blood flow. In fact, it is estimated that as many as 25-40% of individuals demonstrating vision loss secondary to glaucoma may have IOP within the normal range. Importantly, IOP is variable and can exhibit a diurnal variation that fluctuates significantly. Therefore management of glaucoma requires that IOP variations be carefully controlled to ensure that vision loss is prevented.
Glaucoma increases in incidence significantly over the age of 50 and is six- to-eight times more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Glaucoma also demonstrates a genetic component with a sibling being a greater risk factor than a parent for developing the disease. Recently, studies have shown that people with hypertension are 17% more likely to develop glaucoma and those with diabetes are 35% more likely to develop glaucoma. People diagnosed with both hypertension and diabetes are 48% more likely to develop glaucoma than their peers.
It is important to have annual eye exams with a careful analysis of all risk factors that may contribute to the development of glaucoma. Comprehensive testing and imaging permits the diagnosis of glaucoma much earlier than previously possible and enables people to retain their vision. Early diagnosis and successful treatment can ensure that your activities or hobbies are not limited due to preventable vision loss.
Dr. Popowski practices at Elite Vision located at 3470 Centennial Blvd. in the Centennial Professional Building. He can be reached at 719-471-1107.