Keeping an Eye on the Health of Your Eyes: Glaucoma
Eye exams are much more than just getting a prescription for glasses. While being able to see with glasses is not a trivial thing, the most important reason for getting an eye exam is to check the health of your eyes. There are a few very common eye diseases that when left untreated can cause a loss of vision or even blindness. One of the more insidious of these diseases is glaucoma because there are no symptoms at all in the early to middle stages of the disease.
The eye is essentially a hollow ball full of fluid maintained at a certain pressure much like the tires on a car. If the pressure gets too high it can cause damage to the optic nerve. This damage to the optic nerve is what is known as glaucoma. If enough damage occurs vision loss will result and if treatment is not initiated soon enough then eventually blindness will occur. Unfortunately you cannot feel the damage or pressure from glaucoma and you cannot see any changes in your vision until the disease reaches the advanced stages. By the time your vision begins to change most of the tissue of the optic nerve has already been lost and it will be much more difficult to treat.
The only way to detect glaucoma in the early stages is with an eye exam. The two primary ways of screening for glaucoma are by checking the pressure of the eyes and inspecting the optic nerves for damage. As a general rule, pressures that are too high and optic nerves that show a lack or loss of tissue are the primary signs of glaucoma both of which usually can detected during a routine eye exam. If these risk factors are detected then further testing can be done to confirm if glaucoma exists and if so then it can be treated.
There are a few different treatment options for glaucoma but the most common and usually the first line of treatment is just eye drops. These drops do not cure glaucoma but they often can stop its progress by lowering the pressure in the eye. If glaucoma is not detected until the late stages surgery is usually required to try to preserve what little of the tissue of the optic nerve remains, but the vision damage that has already occurred is irreparable. Glaucoma is a terrible disease and one of the most common causes of preventable blindness. Glaucoma is just one of many reasons to make sure you get an eye exam every year.