The Increasing Pressure of Glaucoma

Elderly woman working on computer at homeMost diseases and conditions show early signs or symptoms to tell you to pay attention. For instance, Parkinson’s disease will present early signs, such as an older surfer suddenly not being able to get up on his or her board one day. Skin cancers show themselves as actinic keratoses or other minor lesions before they become more serious. Gum disease tells you it’s occurring when your gums begin to bleed.

Not so with glaucoma and your eyesight. Before you begin to see any signs, glaucoma will already have damaged your optic nerve and caused irreversible vision damage.

That’s why you need to maintain regular eye exam appointments with Dr. Wilkins and Dr. Donohue at The Eye Clinic. Plus, our glaucoma consultant, Dr. Samples, could be a valuable resource.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions where pressure builds inside the eye, and this increased pressure damages the optic nerve. It is second only to macular degeneration for blindness across all age groups in the U.S. Glaucoma is especially dangerous because many forms have no warning signs — before the patient realizes there is a problem with his or her vision, damage has already occurred. This damage is permanent.

What causes glaucoma?

The interior of our eyes is filled with fluid, known as aqueous humor. When your eye is normal, this fluid flows through the eye and exits through an area of tissue known as the trabecular meshwork. This is located where the iris and the cornea meet.

If a person has glaucoma, the trabecular meshwork develops a blockage or other damage, or the person’s eye produces too much aqueous humor. This causes pressure to build inside the eye. If it stays elevated, this pressure begins to damage the optic nerve. This deterioration will begin to show itself as the patient will notice blind spots in his or her visual field. This damage is permanent.

Who is at risk for getting glaucoma?

Anyone can develop glaucoma, but there are a variety of risk factors that make a person more likely:

  • Having high intraocular pressure
  • Being over age 60
  • Being black, Asian, or Hispanic
  • Having a family history of glaucoma
  • Having other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or sickle cell anemia
  • Having corneas that are thin in the center
  • Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
  • Having had an eye injury
  • Having had certain types of eye surgery
  • Long-time use of corticosteroid medications, particularly eye drops

The key to minimizing the impact from glaucoma is to catch it early. This happens through regular eye exams at The Eye Clinic. The frequency of these exams needs to increase as you age and if you have risk factors for glaucoma.

Here are some general timelines:

  • Under age 40 — Every two to four years
  • Age 40 to 54 — Every one to three years
  • Age 55 to 64 — Every one to two years
  • After age 65 — Every six to 12 months

If you have a family history, have diabetes, or are African American you are at a higher risk and should be tested every year or two after the age of 35.

Is it time for your next eye exam at The Eye Clinic? Call us at (503) 297-4718 to schedule your appointment.

Posted in: Glaucoma

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