Glaucoma: the leading cause of preventable blindness in U.S.

July 9, 2009 // 0 Comments

by DR. CARL STITES Stites Eye Care Our visual system is a complex network of nerves, blood vessels, muscles and refractive surfaces that allow us to view the world clearly. Although we have made great advancements over the years in the study of human medicine, we still cannot repair nerve fibers. If your spinal cord is severed, paralysis is unavoidable. The eye relies on nerve fibers to transmit visual information to the brain. If the nerve fibers of the eye are damaged, transmission of this visual information is affected and vision loss inevitably and irreparably occurs. This is what takes place in glaucoma. Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the United States. Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that initially causes a gradual loss of peripheral vision that slowly advances to an eventual total vision loss in the affected eye. This article will deal with the most common type of glaucoma, “open angle glaucoma.” Unfortunately, there are no symptoms-no redness, no pain and no blurred vision. Patients do not realize they have the disease, which is why it is the leading cause of preventable blindness in our country. The earliest effect of this condition is a very gradual loss of peripheral visual field. If you notice a loss in your visual field, the disease has most likely been present for quite some time and even with aggressive treatment it is often too late to save any usable vision in that eye. Any vision loss at all from glaucoma is always permanent and irreversible since it involves damage to nerve fibers. The goal in any treatment is to prevent further vision loss. Glaucoma can affect any person at any age. I have diagnosed and treated glaucoma in 29-year-olds and 89-year-olds, although it is more common with each decade of life. There is definitely a genetic component to this disease, so if a family member is affected, your risk increases markedly. Blacks, Hispanics and diabetics are also at a greater risk of developing glaucoma earlier in life. Glaucoma has not been linked to blood pressure, diet, exercise, high cholesterol or wearing glasses. The eyes are filled with a viscous fluid, much like a balloon is filled with air. In patients with glaucoma, the […]