BY BARRY WARNER
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye in which fluid pressure in the eye rises. If left untreated, persons can lose vision and may possibly become blind.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there is a small space in front of the eye called the “anterior chamber.” Clear liquid flows in and out of the chamber to nourish and bathe the eye tissues. If a patient has glaucoma, the fluid does not drain properly out of the eye, which leads to a fluid buildup and pressure in the eye rises. Unless the pressure is brought down and controlled, the optic nerve and other parts of the eye may become damaged, leading to a loss of vision.
Before an examination is done, the eyes are numbed with eye drops and the pupils are dilated. The ophthalmologist views the area where the fluid drains out of the eye which helps to determine whether the angle between the cornea and iris is open or closed. “Open angle” is slowly progressive and does not show symptoms. “Closed angle” occurs with a severe increase in eye pressure accompanied by pain and blurred vision.
A Pachymeter is used to measure corneal thickness, which can affect eye pressure readings. A very thin cornea, the clear window in front of the eye, may increase the risk of glaucoma. In a visual field test, the patient is shown a sequence of light spots and asked to identify them. Some of the dots are located where the patient’s peripheral vision is, the part of vision that is initially affected by glaucoma.
A device called a tonometer is used to measure the inner pressure of the eye when a small amount of pressure is applied to the eye with a puff of air. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) can directly measure the thickness of the nerve fiber layer and create a three-dimensional representation of the optic nerve.
Ophthalmologist Bernadette M. Hromin, M.D. of Rockland Eye Physicians and Surgeons said, “Three million Americans have glaucoma and do not know it. It is a silent robber of sight and is the leading cause of blindness for people over the age of sixty. Ethnically, East Asians have a higher risk of developing the disease compared to Caucasians, because of ‘closed angle’ glaucoma. People of African-American descent are three to four times more likely to develop the malady than Caucasians. Treatment methods include eye drops, lasers or surgery to improve the flow of fluid inside the eye, reducing its production or both. It is important for people to visit their Ophthalmologists for glaucoma screening this month to diagnose high eye pressure and possible damage to the optic nerve. These risk factors, if left untreated, can lead to a loss of peripheral vision and blindness.”