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Glaucoma Managable If Detected Early April 17, 2008




AUGUSTA, GA. – (April 15, 2008) -- Nearly 2.2 million people have glaucoma, the leading cause of blindness. While there is no cure, the condition can be managed if diagnosed early.

According to Victoria Burt, a University Hospital Nurse Practitioner, glaucoma is an eye disease that results when too much fluid pressure builds up inside of the eye.

“The pressure damages the optic nerve in the eye, which causes vision loss or even blindness,” explained Ms. Burt, on Tuesday’s 11 a.m. Healthy U segment on NBC Augusta. There are two different types that involve the drainage system in the eye, she said.

The most common type is open angle glaucoma, which results in a slow flow of the fluid leaving the eye resulting in a gradual increase in the eye pressure.

“There are no symptoms at first – everything seems normal,” Ms. Burt said. “But progression of the disorder will lead to first loss of side vision, so the person feels as though they are looking through a tunnel.” Next there will be blurred vision and poor night vision.

The second type is closed angle glaucoma. In this type, there is a blockage resulting in a sudden build-up of the pressure in the eye. The sufferer will experience eye pain, headaches, nausea or vomiting. “This type of glaucoma is a medical emergency,” Ms. Burt said.

The risk for glaucoma increases for everyone after age 60, but certain people have a higher risk at a younger age. Those people are:

  • African-Americans older than 40
  • People with a family history
  • Diabetics

Glaucoma is diagnosed by an ophthalmologist with a number of quick, painless tests. They include:

  • Dilated eye exam -- using drops to widen the pupils so that the back of the eye and nerves can be examined for damage.
  • Tonometry – using an instrument to measure the pressure inside the eye.
  • Other vision tests to measure how well you can see at various distances and one to determine if you have lost your side vision.
  • Glaucoma is treated through medication (pills or eye drops) to reduce the pressure by slowing the flow of the fluid into the eye or improving fluid drainage from the eye. It may be recommended that some patients have laser surgery or microsurgery to make it easier for fluid to exit the eye.

    “There is no cure, and vision lost from glaucoma cannot be restored,” Ms. Burt warned. “Early treatment may save the remaining vision, so early diagnosis is important. People at risk need to have a complete eye exam every one to two years.”

    For more information on glaucoma on help finding a physician, call ASK-A-NURSE at 706/737-8432.



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