Protecting Your Vision From The Effects Of Glaucoma

Those who have diabetes are 40 percent more likely to develop glaucoma than individuals without diabetes.

Glaucoma is a build up of pressure within the eye. The pressure slowly pinches blood vessels that feed the retina and optic nerve. Without adequate blood supply these tissues suffer damage, and vision eventually becomes impaired, or lost.

Protecting Your Vision

To detect eye disorders such as glaucoma, and ensure optimal vision for long as possible, the American Diabetes Association recommends these five steps:

  1. Keep blood sugar levels under control. This can prevent, or delay the onset of eye complications, such as glaucoma.
  2. If you smoke, find a way to quit.
  3. Keep your blood pressure under control since high blood pressure exacerbates eye disease.
  4. Have a dilated eye exam at least once each year. Catching eye disease in its early stages makes successful treatment likelier.
  5. See an eye professional immediately if you notice blurry vision, have difficulty reading, see double, your eyes are always red, one or both eyes hurt, straight lines look crooked, you see floaters or spots, or side vision has diminished.

During a regular eye exam two routine tests - an eye pressure measurement, and an inspection of the optic nerve - will indicate whether further testing for glaucoma is required.

Testing For Glaucoma

Since diagnosing glaucoma is not always easy, five factors are considered before a diagnosis is made:

  • Eye Pressure. A tonometry test measures the pressure within our eye (intraocular pressure). First, numbing eye drops are put in each eye, and then a device called a tonometer measures eye pressure. This test is not definitive for glaucoma since some people with the condition have normal-range pressure.
  • Optic Nerve. An ophthalmoscopy test reveals the state of our optic nerve. Eye drops are given to dilate (enlarge) the pupils so doctors can peer through them to check the optic nerve’s shape and color. A small device with a light on one end magnifies the optic nerve for examination.
  • If the optic nerve looks unusual, and/or intraocular pressure is high a doctor may want to do tests measuring field of vision, and angle.
  • Field of Vision. For a field of vision, or perimetry test, patients are asked to look straight ahead, and then indicate when a moving light passes their peripheral (side) vision. This determines whether their field of vision has been affected by glaucoma.
  • Angle. The gonioscopy test shows if the angle where the iris meets the cornea is open and wide, or narrow and closed. After drops numb the eye, a hand-held, mirrored contact lens is placed on eye to reveal the angle.
  • A closed, or blocked angle may indicate angle-closure, or acute glaucoma. An open or wide angle might indicate open-angle, chronic glaucoma.
  • Cornea Thickness. The thickness of the cornea is measured by a pachymetry test. A probe, or pachymeter is gently placed on the eye to take the measurement. Since corneal thickness can influence eye pressure, a doctor may use this test to better understand a patient’s interocular pressure results, and to plan an effective treatment strategy.
  • If, after performing these assessments diagnosis remains uncertain, patients may be referred to a glaucoma specialist.

Though many people do not like their eyes being touched, none of these tests are painful, and what they reveal can help us maintain our eyesight. There is no cure for glaucoma, but the timely application of medication and/or surgery can prevent the condition from progressing.

Sources: Diabetes.org; Glaucoma Research Foundation
Photo credit: Nithi Anand

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