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Glaucoma is a chronic eye disease that affects millions of men and women in the U.S., and many don’t even know they have the condition. That’s because glaucoma causes subtle changes inside the eye that can be difficult to detect until permanent vision loss has already occurred. Having regular eye exams is the best way to identify glaucoma in its very early stages before it has a chance to cause permanent loss of sight. As a leading Lancaster, St. Johnsbury and Montpelier Optometrist, Shippee Family Eye Care provides comprehensive exams to diagnose glaucoma in its initial stages, as well as state-of-the-art treatments and vision service options to manage symptoms and reduce your risk of permanent loss of vision.
In most people, glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eye - called the intraocular pressure or IOP - increases beyond normal levels, usually because the fluid inside the eye doesn't drain properly. The elevated pressure compresses the optic nerve located at the very back of the eye. This nerve transmits vision information from the light-sensitive retina at the back of the eye to the brain, which interprets the information and “translates” it into the images we see. When the nerve becomes damaged, it can no longer transmit information from the eye to the brain, resulting in loss of vision.
Most people have open-angle glaucoma, which causes a gradual loss of vision over time. Other people have closed-angle glaucoma, which causes sudden and severe vision loss. Less often, glaucoma develops even when the pressure inside the eye is normal. This is called normal-tension glaucoma. Your eye doctor will use special methods to test for both types of glaucoma.
Typically, glaucoma causes no symptoms in its very early stages. As the disease progresses, it can cause:
Glaucoma is more common among people 60 years of age and older, and it’s also more common among people with diabetes. If you have a family history of glaucoma or if you’re of African descent, you’re also at greater risk for the disease.
The first step in reducing your risks of glaucoma-related vision loss is to have routine eye exams, especially if you’re at risk for the disease. During your eye exam, your eye doctor will perform several tests to evaluate your retinas and your optic nerve. These tests measure your IOP as well as look for other signs and symptoms associated with glaucoma, including subtle signs of damage that can occur even when your IOP is normal.
If your eye doctor determines you have glaucoma, several treatment options are available. Most patients respond well to medication to reduce IOP and relieve pressure on the optic nerve. For more advanced or aggressive disease, special procedures can be used to improve drainage inside your eye. Once the disease is under control, our eye care team can provide you with an updated prescription to help compensate for vision loss that may have already occurred.
As a leading optometry practice in Lancaster, St. Johnsbury and Montpelier, Shippee Family Eye Care is a full-service eye health provider dedicated to helping our patients get the care they need to enjoy optimal vision at every age. To learn more about glaucoma and to schedule your exam, call our Lancaster office at 603-788-3561, our Montpelier office at 802-223-7723 or our St. Johnsbury office at 802-748-3536 today.