Posts Tagged ‘glaucoma’

How to Protect Your Vision from Glaucoma

Three million Americans have been diagnosed with glaucoma, and about 2 million are not aware that they have this disease. Since glaucoma often does not show symptoms, eye exams are needed to prevent the disease from getting worse.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and cause vision loss. The damage to the optic nerve comes from an increase in fluid pressure inside the eye. There are several different ways fluid pressure can build. Often it happens very slowly but occasionally it can happen quickly, which results in a lot of eye pain. No matter the cause of glaucoma, without treatment it can cause blindness within a few years.

The good news is that glaucoma is treatable. The risk of blindness from glaucoma goes down when the condition is found and treated early.

Signs and Symptoms

Glaucoma is often called the “silent thief of sight” because in its early stages it often does not cause symptoms. As the disease worsens, side vision will gradually fade, focusing on objects will become more difficult, halos will appear around light and, without treatment, straight-ahead vision will be lost as well.

Eye doctors can diagnose glaucoma before any symptoms occur. A simple eye exam can rule out most people who do not have glaucoma. After the eye exam, a doctor might decide that a special test called a visual field test is needed. Having these tests regularly can help detect glaucoma in its early stages before any vision loss.

Glaucoma can affect anyone, but genetics and family history play an important role. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends eye examinations at least every one to two years for:

  • African Americans and Latinos over age 40
  • Anyone over age 65
  • People with a family history of glaucoma
  • Individuals who have experienced a serious eye injury
  • People with diabetes (yearly exams are recommended)

Childhood Glaucoma

Childhood glaucoma is relatively rare but is the leading cause of blindness in children, especially in developing countries. It can occur at birth or within the first few years of life and requires multiple procedures and lifelong follow-up.

Glaucoma Treatment Options

There are treatments for glaucoma that can help slow or stop vision loss. Glaucoma treatment can include eye drops to either reduce the formation of fluid in the eye or to increase how quickly it flows out. Laser surgery or microsurgery may also be an option for treating glaucoma.

Early detection of glaucoma gives patients the best chance to keep good vision. Since damage cannot be undone, it is important to have regular eye exams and checkups. Protect your vision by scheduling an appointment with an Emory Eye Center doctor today. Appointments can be made Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (ET), by calling 404-778-2020.

About Emory Eye Center

Emory Eye Center is the largest, most comprehensive eye care center in Georgia, serving patients for nearly 150 years. Emory Eye Center has a nationally recognized team of physicians and scientists who work closely on the study and treatment of glaucoma.

About Emory Eye Center’s Glaucoma Research

The Emory Eye Center is on the forefront of glaucoma research and is constantly translating new findings into treatment. Eye Center researchers are working on several glaucoma clinical trials, studying the genetic causes of glaucoma, and working to put in place glaucoma treatment in clinics around the world.

Links to Outside Resources


Why Do You Need a Yearly Eye Exam?

Yearly Eye ExamI’m often asked why it’s important to have an annual eye exam. If you wear glasses or contacts, you know that your vision can change over the course of a year. Even if that change isn’t obvious to you, an updated prescription can make a real difference in your quality of life at work and at home. Everyday activities like reading and working on the computer are a lot more comfortable when you have the right eyewear.

Many times, patients come to us for their first exam in their early 40s, when they start experiencing presbyopia, or the inability to focus close up (i.e., when reading). However, even if you’re not experiencing any noticeable change in your vision, periodic comprehensive eye exams are important, because they allow for the early detection of eye diseases and other eye problems—some of which have no obvious symptoms. Earlier detection allows for earlier treatment and a better visual outcome for most.

At the Emory Eye Center, our comprehensive eye exam includes screening for signs of eye and medical problems such as:

  • GlaucomaGlaucoma is an eye disease typically caused by an increase in pressure in the eye that can’t be felt. Over time, if not treated, glaucoma damages the optic nerve and can lead to blindness. In general, there are no early warning signs, and early detection is the key to preserving vision. Often, the patients we diagnose with glaucoma haven’t had an eye exam in 5 to 10 years.
  • Cataracts – A cataract is a change in the lens inside the eye as a result of aging. Over time, this leads to hazy vision. Cataracts can be treated with surgery.
  • Macular degeneration – Macular degeneration affects your central vision and can occur as a result of aging. Depending on the type of macular degeneration, you may experience drastic changes within a year’s time. A comprehensive annual exam can help us detect the early signs of macular degeneration and treat it, if necessary.
  • Hypertension – Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a systemic issue that can affect the eye in a number of ways. We can detect signs of hypertension in the back of the eye during a comprehensive eye exam.
  • Diabetes – Diabetes is another systemic issue that can affect the eyes and lead to blindness. People with diabetes need to have an annual eye exam to check for diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the eye’s retina, which may be symptomless until the damage is severe. An eye exam also can help detect the early signs of diabetes, allowing earlier preventive treatment.

An annual eye exam provides a baseline against which to measure future vision changes and the progression of eye disease or other medical problems. One hour once a year can make a significant difference in your vision, your health, and your quality of life.

When’s the last time you had a comprehensive eye exam? Please take a moment to give us feedback in the comments section below. If you’re interested in making your eye exam appointment with Emory, visit our Eye Center Patient Services page.

About Ann Van Wie, OD

Ann Van Wie, OD, is a member of the American Optometric Association and the Georgia Optometric Association. Dr. Van Wie started practicing at Emory in 2000 and is an instructor of ophthalmology.