Early treatment vital for glaucoma

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photoLeo Kan

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve -- the nerve that carries visual information from the eyes to the brain. It is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, especially for older people.

When damage to the optic nerve occurs, blind spots develop in the field of vision. Early on, these blind spots usually go undetected, until the damage is severe -- which can lead to profound visual loss.

Early detection and treatment by your eye doctor (ophthalmologist), especially a glaucoma specialist, are critical to reduce the risk of progressive glaucoma damage.

Chronic open-angle glaucoma (COAG) is the most common type of glaucoma in the United States.

A major risk factor for COAG is elevated pressure inside the eye, and the risk increases with age. Family history, African ancestry, and previous eye trauma can also be contributory.

COAG usually has no symptoms in its early stages, which makes early detection and treatment critical, especially for those with higher risks.

Generally speaking, glaucoma damages are not reversible. Treatments for COAG are meant to help reduce the risk of further damage.

Depending on the severity of the condition, eye drops, laser treatment and surgery are three options that may be recommended by your doctor. In some cases, oral medications may also be prescribed.

Periodic follow-up examinations are very important to prevent visual loss from glaucoma.

Since progressive glaucoma damage can occur without your knowledge, modifications to your treatment may be necessary from time to time.

For more information, you can visit the website of the American Academy of Ophthalmology: www.aao.org.

The Vancouver Clinic offers subspecialty glaucoma care to Southwest Washington. Call 360-882-2778 for an appointment.