Glaucoma, an eye disease that affects people worldwide, is prevalent in the Caribbean.
Over the years this disease, of which there are several types, has led to blindness for many. More awareness is necessary to help combat the disease since early detection can prevent blindness.
Glaucoma leads to progressive damage of the optic nerve, which in turn leads to a corresponding progressive loss of vision. The eye’s pressure is a factor with each type of glaucoma. When the pressure in an eye is too high for that eye’s optic nerve, damage will occur.
Anyone can develop glaucoma. However, some of us are at a much greater risk. The risk factors include:
Age: The risk increases in people 60 years old and up, while patients of African descent ages 40 and up are also at risk. However, it can exist at any age and also affects Caucasians.
Race: Risk increases in patients of African descent.
Health: People with diabetes, hypertension or heart disease
Steroid use: Any type of steroids
Eye anatomy, high short/nearsighted prescription
An eye examination includes tests to check for “possible” glaucoma. If suspected, additional tests are required to make a diagnosis. It is important to note that glaucoma does not present signs or symptoms in the early stage of the disease, except for certain rare types of glaucoma.
There is no pain. The peripheral vision is affected initially, so vision loss is only noticed in the later stages when vision loss is significant.
Management and treatment are much more difficult in the later stages of the disease, and whatever vision loss has occurred is not reversible. Therefore, early detection is key to stopping or slowing down vision loss from glaucoma.
Glaucoma is usually treated with daily use of eye drops, but sometimes surgery is required. Eye drops are not a cure but a way of managing and controlling the disease. Therefore, the patient must comply with administering the eye drops daily as recommended to ensure good control.
Treatment and close monitoring with the optometrist or ophthalmologist is needed for the best possible control and management.
Being aware and early detection are the best defenses against glaucoma and other eye diseases.
The American Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations for all as the best way to maintain good eye health.
Dr. Natalie Da Silva completed her Doctor Of Optometry Degree at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She is a practicing optometrist at CAD Optical (Dr. Foley’s Eye Clinic).