Health Alert: Glaucoma

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million people by 2030, a 58% increase. Tonight on Health Alert we are going to discuss Glaucoma, as it is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Joining us in the studio is Dr. David Faris, ophthalmologist in Bridgeport.

Question: So, tell us more about Glaucoma?

Answer: Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. That is why it is called the "the sneak thief of sight" since there are no symptoms and once vision is lost, it's permanent. Although the most common forms primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, glaucoma can affect people of all ages.

Vision loss is caused by damage to the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires. It is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain.

There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.

Question: Are there different types of Glaucoma?

Answer: Yes, there are two main types of glaucoma: primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma. These are marked by an increase of intraocular pressure (IOP), or pressure inside the eye. When optic nerve damage has occurred despite a normal IOP, this is called normal tension glaucoma.

Secondary glaucoma refers to any case in which another disease causes or contributes to increased eye pressure, resulting in optic nerve damage and vision loss.

Question: Obviously, regular eye exams are important.

Answer: That’s right, Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization. In the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. Vision loss begins with peripheral or side vision, so if you have glaucoma, you may not notice anything until significant vision is lost.

The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination. Then, if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness among African-Americans. And among Hispanics in older age groups, the risk of glaucoma is nearly as high as that for African-Americans. Also, siblings of persons diagnosed with glaucoma have a significantly increased risk of having glaucoma.

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Question: Who is at risk for Glaucoma?

Answer: Those at higher risk include people of African, Asian, and Hispanic descent. Other high-risk groups include: people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely nearsighted. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, and may help to prevent unnecessary vision loss.