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Eye diagram

A group of eye diseases causing vision loss and blindness by damaging the optic nerve.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss, affecting about 3 million people in the United States. Because there are no symptoms early on, about half of people with the disease don’t know they have it. Once vision is lost to glaucoma, it can’t be regained

During Glaucoma Awareness Month in January, we at Union Family Eye Associates are reminding the public that early detection and treatment, combined with some lifestyle choices, can help protect your sight.

Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the retina to the brain. Typically, the disease progresses slowly, gradually destroying peripheral vision. Because people are unaware of early peripheral vision loss, a patient can lose most of it before they even know they have glaucoma.

Are you at risk for glaucoma?

Glaucoma may not be preventable, but blindness from the condition can be as long as it is detected in the early stages. Many people affected with the disease do not know until it is too late. Because of this, it’s important to be aware of the common risk factors.

  • Being 40 years or older
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Previous eye injury
  • High eye pressure
  • Taking steroid medications

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

Union Family Eye Associates has invested in several diagnostic methods that take into account unique risk factors so that the test you get is tailored to you. These methods include:

  • Slit-lamp Microscopy Eye Exam
  • Eye Pressure Test (Intraocular Pressure)
  • Central Cornea Measurement (Pachymeter)
  • Anterior Chamber Angle Exam ( OCT)
  • Optic Nerve Exam
  • Visual Field Test

How is glaucoma treated?

There are several treatments available depending upon the type and stage of glaucoma. Once these factors have been determined, the doctor will proceed with the treatment that has the best chance of effectiveness.

*Medication *: There are many from which to choose. This treatment will try to lower the pressure in the eye by improving the fluid drainage from the eye or by decreasing the amount of fluid the eye creates.

Laser treatment : The type of laser therapy depends on the type of glaucoma and the stage of the condition.

  • Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) is often used in combination with other treatment options and is used to treat primary open angle glaucoma when eye drop medications are not effective.
  • Laser peripheral iridotomy (LPI) is used to treat angle-closure glaucoma.
  • Laser cyclophotocoagulation is used when other treatment options are ineffective.

Conventional surgery : Conventional surgery is used when the medications or laser therapy are unable to control the glaucoma.

  • Trabeculectomy is where a surgeon creates a tiny drainage hole in the white part of the eye in order to lower eye pressure.
  • Aqueous shunt surgery is where a drainage device is implanted in the eye. This is an option if a trabeculectomy does not help.
  • XEN Gel Stent is a flexible non-degradable gelatin shunt that is implanted into the subconjunctival, or exposed mucous membrane. This creates a new drainage channel which reduces intra-ocular pressure.

Beyond drugs and surgery, several recent studies suggest that lifestyle choices may also help minimize the risk of losing vision to glaucoma.

  • Exercise regularly. A study just published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, showed that people who engaged in physical activity can slow vision loss from glaucoma.
  • Meditate. A new study published last month in the Journal Glaucoma showed that a relaxation program with meditation can lower eye pressure in glaucoma patients and improve their quality of life by lowering stress hormones like cortisol.
  • Don’t use CBD as a “natural” glaucoma remedy. CBD, or cannabidiol, is the non-psychotropic component of cannabis and hemp being touted as a magical cure-all. A study published last month in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science shows it actually raised eye pressure in mice.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially green, leafy ones. One study showed that people who ate more leafy vegetables have a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of developing glaucoma. Why? Nitrates in green vegetables can be converted to nitric oxide, which can improve blood flow and help regulate pressure inside the eye.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of glaucoma and has an overall negative impact on eye health.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. People with a higher body mass index (BMI) are at increased risk for diabetes, and having diabetes puts people at risk of glaucoma. Having a too low BMI is also associated with increased glaucoma risk.