Q: What is Glaucoma
A: Glaucoma is a disease that causes a gradual degeneration of cells that make up the optic nerve which carries visual information from the eye to the brain. As the nerve cells die, vision is slowly lost, usually beginning on the outside of your field of vision.
Q: What are the causes of Glaucoma?
A: Often, the loss of vision is unnoticeable until a significant amount of nerve damage has occurred. For this reason, almost half of all people with glaucoma may be unaware of their disease.
The exact cause of primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, is uncertain. Other forms of glaucoma (such as angle-closure, secondary and congenital glaucoma) occur in relation to specific physical causes.
Elevated fluid pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure) seems related in some way to all cases of glaucoma. However, even those cases with apparently normal pressure seem to benefit from treatment aimed at lowering pressure.
Q: Can Glaucoma be prevented?
A: Unfortunately, glaucoma cannot be prevented. Factors that increase the risk of glaucoma include age, race, diabetes, eye trauma, and long-term use of steroid medications.
Glaucoma is traditionally defined by a triad of signs, including the presence of at least two of the following: elevated intraocular pressure, optic disc cupping, and visual field loss.
However, case definitions used in the various epidemiologic studies of the disease have differed on specific criteria. Only cases of primary open-angle glaucoma that had clear signs of optic nerve head damage and/or reproducible visual field loss (definite open angle glaucoma) are included in the prevalence estimates.
Q: How common is glaucoma?
A: Glaucoma affects more than 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older, or about 1.9% of the population.
Q: Who is at risk?
A: Glaucoma can occur in people of all races at any age. However, the likelihood of developing glaucoma increases if you:
- are of Filipino, Japanese, Pacific Islander or African American descent
- have a relative with glaucoma
- are diabetic
- are very nearsighted
- are over 35 years of age
- Glaucoma appears to be more common initially in women, but by age 65, prevalence becomes more comparable between the sexes.
Q: What are the treatment methods?
A: Most cases of glaucoma can be controlled and vision-loss slowed or halted by treatment. To control glaucoma, Dr. McMann will use one of three basic types of treatment: medicines, laser surgery, or filtration surgery. The goal of treatment is to lower the pressure in the eye. Unfortunately, any vision lost due to glaucoma cannot be restored.
For more information on Glaucoma, please visit my website at www.oahulasik.com. I invite you to make an appointment to see me personally, if you have any questions about glaucoma or would like to discuss other eye care treatment options.
Dr. Michael A. McMann is a Board-Certified Ophthalmologist, and Fellowship-Trained Surgeon in Cornea, External Disease & Refractive Surgery. His office is located in the Hawai’i Medical Center West – St Francis Medical Office Plaza in ‘Ewa Beach. He can be reached at 677-2733.