Patients are recommended to have comprehensive eye exams at least once every two years, or more frequently if they have been found to experience eye problems. The purpose of these exams is to thoroughly assess every aspect of the health and condition of your eyes. This is because many different conditions can potentially threaten their health, and in turn, your vision. One of the most common is glaucoma. As a result, glaucoma testing, which is a fast and painless process, is a vitally important part of any comprehensive eye exam.
Here’s what you need to know about glaucoma and exactly why incorporating this test into your eye exam appointments is so important.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of different eye diseases that affect the optic nerve – the element of the optical system that connects the eye to the brain. It often affects both eyes, although the disease may not progressive at the same rate in each. Glaucoma is more common than people might expect, with more than 3 million U.S. adults living with the condition. The vast majority of these, at around 2.7 million, are affected by its most common form – open-angle glaucoma.
Our eyes constantly produce a special liquid which helps to keep them healthy. Any excess is naturally drained through special tubes built into the physiology of our eyes. However, when the fluid is unable to drain properly, it can cause the amount of pressure within the eye – intraocular pressure – to build up. If the pressure becomes too. Much, it can cause damage to the optic nerve and the nerve fibers that extend from the retina. This can lead to permanent vision loss.
There are several different varieties of glaucoma although one – open-angle glaucoma – is by far the most common. This type occurs when the pressure within the eye accumulates very slowly and is unnoticed or overlooked by the patient, which is caused by the slow blockage of the drainage channels that remove excess fluid from the eye. Several of the other most common types of glaucoma are:
Closed-angle glaucoma: which develops and can cause damage very quickly, and so demands immediate medical attention.
Congenital glaucoma: This develops within a few weeks of birth and occurs due to a defect with the eye’s drainage canals during the prenatal period.
Secondary glaucoma: This usually occurs due to an eye injury, inflammation or taking certain drugs such as steroids.
One of the biggest problems with the most common type of glaucoma is that damage can occur before the patient is even aware that they are suffering from the condition. This is because the peripheral vision is affected first. Unfortunately, this means that it possible for patients to permanently lose some degree of the quality of their vision before their condition is even diagnosed.
Although acute glaucoma is rare, it can exceedingly painful and will progress rapidly. As a result, urgent attention is needed to prevent widespread damage to your vision. Even if the symptoms go away on their own as quickly as they arrived and without treatment, you may still have suffered visual impairment.
By getting tested for glaucoma regularly, your eye doctor has the best opportunity to measure your intraocular pressure and check that it isn’t gradually increasing to a worrying degree. If any concerning changes are noted, steps can be taken to get your intraocular pressure back under control quickly, and before any damage to your sight occurs.
Glaucoma testing is particularly recommended for patients who are considered to be at risk of the condition, including:
If you would like more information about glaucoma and why testing is needed, or if you would like to schedule an eye exam with our expert team, please contact our offices.