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January 2015 is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Health check – January is Glaucoma Awareness month. Unfortunately, glaucoma is one of the common reasons for permanent blindness in one or both eyes. This eye disease is also known as the “silent thief” of vision because in its most common form, glaucoma has little to no symptoms. Glaucoma is characterized by a decrease in optic nerve health related to eye pressures that are too high for one’s eye. The damage occurs without any symptoms, and only with very high pressures, you might have eye pain, red eyes, see halos, or have blurry vision. As glaucoma damages the optic nerve fibers, the optic nerve tissue does not regenerate so loss of vision becomes permanent. There are many types of glaucoma, including open, narrow, and closed angle glaucoma to name a few. It can occur from injuries to the eye as well. Some risk factors for glaucoma include age, race, certain medicines, family history, nearsightedness, farsightedness, and of course eye pressure. Because it can cause damage even within normal pressure readings, it is crucial that your optic nerve be examined carefully by a competent physician. Special instruments using light beams in the office can measure the health of the optic nerve quickly and painlessly. In many cases, the exam can find subtle indications of the disease, and careful follow up exams are needed to monitor for any development of the disease. The sooner it is detected and appropriate treatments begun, the possibility of protecting the eyes and keeping vision is improved. Treatments may include eye drops, laser surgery, or intraocular surgery to lower the pressure and control the glaucoma. Sometimes combinations of these various treatments are used to control the disease. Remember, it is very important that regular exams are performed to check for glaucoma, especially if you have risk factors. Appropriate treatments and monitoring are required for management of this silent thief of vision.

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