Who is most at risk for glaucoma?
More than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma, and the frightening part of that statistic is that more than half of those affected don’t know they have it, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. Identifying people who suffer from glaucoma can be a difficult task for Ophthalmology offices as there are few to no symptoms until severe vision loss is present. While everyone is at some risk for acquiring the disease, there are certain factors that can identify who is at most risk for glaucoma. Take a moment to find out what those are then read about the glaucoma treatment options.
What is glaucoma?
It’s important to understand what glaucoma is and is not before judging if you’re at risk or may actually suffer from the disease. Glaucoma is a complex eye disease that leads to optic nerve damage and visual field loss. While it is understood that most glaucoma is associated with increased pressure in the eye, there are actually several different types of glaucoma. Most who are diagnosed fall into two main categories:
- Open-Angle Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is a disease is developed through slow clogging of the drainage passages within the eye and has symptoms that often go unnoticed, leading to increased eye pressure. Open-angle glaucoma accounts for more than 90% of all diagnosed cases. People have no way to tell if their eye pressure is increased without having it measured in the eye doctor’s office.
- Angle-Closure Glaucoma: This is a much faster developing and more noticeable form of glaucoma. The symptoms for this type of the disease call for immediate medical treatment. It is caused by jammed drainage canals that lead to a quick rise in intraocular pressure.
Despite healthy habits and having strong vision throughout life, we’re all at risk for glaucoma. Certain groups have been identified as high risk when it comes to acquiring the disease. Those whose family members have been diagnosed, people over the age of 60, those suffering from extreme nearsightedness, diabetics, and older Hispanics and African Americans are most at risk for the eye disease.
In fact, glaucoma occurs six to eight times more often in African Americans than in Caucasians and is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans. Your risk for the disease upticks by four to nine times if an immediate family member suffers from the disease, and your odds increase if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. Lastly, as you approach age 60, you’re six times more likely to be diagnosed with glaucoma.
The high-risk population groups are encouraged to have routine eye screenings every 3 to 6 months. Postponing or avoiding comprehensive eye exams will only allow your vision to worsen if you do have the disease.
Any vision loss from glaucoma cannot be restored; however, glaucoma treatment options are available through medicine or surgical procedures that can halt or slow the progression. The Atlantic Eye team can determine which glaucoma treatment options will work best for you through a consultation and eye exam. Possible treatments for glaucoma include:
- Conventional Surgery: This surgical treatment is usually reserved for patients who are not adequately controlled with medication or laser treatment. The surgery called a trabeculectomy or a shunt is performed in an operating room and usually takes about 30-60 minutes. A small piece of tissue is removed to allow the fluid to drain from the eye. While this method is reported to be 60 to 80 percent effective in lowering eye pressure, there is a risk that a patient’s vision may not be as strong as it was prior to surgery.
- Laser Surgery: Laser trabeculoplasty can help fluid drain out of the eye more easily, which helps lower the eye pressure. Essentially, a laser is used to stimulate the drainage tissue to process the eye’s fluid more efficiently inside your eye. This is usually effective and has little risk, however, the downside to this procedure is that the effects of surgery can eventually wear off. This procedure is repeatable though and can be completed in your eye doctor’s office.
- Prescriptions: For early stage glaucoma, eye drops are the most common treatment. Eyedrops can help lower the pressure on the eye when used 1-3 times a day.
Early diagnosis is key to properly and speedy treatment of glaucoma. Contact the Atlantic Eye office today to set an appointment for your consultation.