TMH Living Well: Glaucoma advances without warning
Glaucoma Awareness Month is a great time to check for this sneaky disease that comes on without warning and steals sight so slowly that you don’t even notice. Your only defense is regular eye exams.
“Glaucoma has been called the ‘sneak thief of sight’ because it typically comes on slowly and painlessly. The risk of developing glaucoma increases as we age, but really anyone can have glaucoma, even babies,” said Dr. Craig Eckroth, OD with Eyecare Specialties of Northwest Colorado at 1111 West Victory Way in Craig.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, according to the World Health Organization. People with a family history are at higher risk, as are people who have experienced blunt trauma to the eye, or have diabetes. African Americans are at a much higher risk than others for the disease.
“Someone could have been hit with a softball in the eye as a child and never thought much of it. Thirty years later, he or she could develop glaucoma,” Eckroth said.
Our best defense against glaucoma is catching it early on. No cure exists for the disease, but medicines are effective in relieving the pressure that builds up in the eye and slowing its progression. Medicines today are more effective and carry less risk than in the past. Glaucoma treatment can vary from individual to individual and certain cases may demand surgery from a glaucoma specialist.
Eckroth and his associates Dr. Ron Danner and Dr. Natalie Hansen treat patients with glaucoma in Craig and surrounding areas. The key to limiting glaucoma is regular eye examinations.
“The earlier we detect glaucoma, the better jump we have on prevention of vision loss. With our advanced instrumentation, we are able to detect it better than ever before,” Eckroth said.
Eyecare Specialties of Northwest Colorado has an OCT machine, or optical coherence tomography. It’s the latest state-of-the-art equipment to detect and follow glaucoma and other retinal conditions. Not all eye care specialists offer this advanced technology.
“It’s like a CAT scan for the eye. It measures the thickness of the retina and optic nerve fibers and tells us if damage has occurred,” he said.
Glaucoma damages the nerve fibers, which effects vision starting with peripheral or side vision. The loss is so gradual most people never notice it until it’s well advanced. At that point, it’s much harder to treat.
Eckroth recommends everyone receive a comprehensive eye exam every year, especially for those over age 40 or with a family history. Glaucoma.org recommends people over age 65 get an exam as frequently as every six months.
“At the exam we do more than measure eye pressure, as that is only one risk factor for glaucoma. We also screen your visual field to detect peripheral vision loss, look at the optic nerve through the pupil, and consider your health history,” Eckroth explained.
In honor of Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, set an appointment for an eye exam. When caught early, you beat the thief at it’s own game and avoid its threat of blindness.
This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig —improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.
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