Is Glaucoma Serious Enough to Need Treatment?
Although the causes are not widely understood, glaucoma is a problem that faces nearly 3 million people over 40 years old in the United States. It is known as the leading cause of blindness worldwide and the effects of the condition are irreversible. The permanent damage is caused by increased pressure on the optic nerve. When the normal fluid that flows through the front part of the eye does not drain quickly or efficiently enough, the buildup pushes against the delicate optic nerve fibers. Over time, the damaged fibers prevent the optic nerve from transmitting full images to the brain. In essence the more optic nerve fiber deterioration that occurs, the larger the blind spots will become, eventually resulting in total blindness.
“Glaucoma is known as the leading cause of blindness worldwide and the effects of the condition are irreversible.
Fortunately, being diagnosed with glaucoma is not a death sentence to eyesight. Decades of technological and medical advancements mean that treatment options, including low-risk surgery, are available. The best thing to do is get regular vision screenings, especially with age. It is recommended a person see an ophthalmologist every 2-5 years after age 35, and more frequently if there is a family history of glaucoma or the individual falls into a high-risk category (i.e. of African descent). Speak with a licensed physician to determine how often checkups are necessary for you.
Why Glaucoma Treatment is Essential
Upon detection of glaucoma, some type of glaucoma treatment is essential. A doctor will likely begin with prescription eye drops or another type of medicine to quickly lower the pressure. These methods are not always the most agreeable because of progression, lifestyle restrictions, or other reasons, but fortunately surgery, implants, and laser treatments can save the day.
These methods are designed to do a few things:
- Reduce the production of liquid in the eye
- Bypass the blocked point of drainage
- Encourage liquid to drain more quickly
- A combination of the above
No matter which route is chosen, the goal is the take pressure off of the optic nerve fibers to prevent any amount of vision loss. Again, without treatment for glaucoma, irreversible blindness is imminent. This problem will not resolve itself without medical attention.
Consider procedures like a trabeculectomy, SLT (selective laser trabeculoplasty), or shunts (ex: iStent by Glaukos.) Talk with your doctor today about the other risks, options, and treatments available to combat the threats glaucoma poses on vision.