Advanced Glaucoma Detection and Treatment
Glaucoma at RVI
Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the United States. The condition usually occurs when pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure or IOP, is too high. The high pressure damages the optic nerve, thus preventing proper transmission of visual information from the eye to the brain. And unlike cataracts or corneal opacities, once vision is lost from glaucoma, it is not recoverable.
At Risk: Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. It affects almost 3 million Americans, afflicting men and women equally. But women are 2-4 times more likely than men to get a more acute and more dangerous form called closed-angle glaucoma. People of Asian decent are also at higher risk for closed angle or narrow angle glaucoma. African Americans are at the greatest risk for glaucoma, and according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, African Americans can expect glaucoma to show up earlier and progress faster than in other ethnicities. And if you have a sibling who has been diagnosed with glaucoma, your risk of getting the same diagnosis increases by a factor of 10!
Diagnosis: Any of the aforementioned risk factors are an important reason to be checked regularly for glaucoma. Glaucoma is called “The Sneak Thief of Sight” because it does not have any symptoms until the end stages of the disease and the damage is not reversible. Fortunately, detection of glaucoma has progressed a great deal over the past several decades. We no longer need to wait until peripheral vision has been lost to diagnose glaucoma. New technologies allow for detection of early changes in nerve tissue within the retina. This allows for earlier detection of glaucoma and therefore, a better long-term prognosis for keeping a person’s vision for his or her lifetime. According to Dr. Brian E Mathie, Clinic Director for Roholt Vision Institute, “In almost all cases, severe vision loss from glaucoma is preventable. With the use of advanced technologies, we can detect glaucoma up to 10 years earlier than in years past so the biggest hurdle in most cases is simply getting patients to be examined by their eye care professional so that appropriate and effective treatments can be initiated”. At RVI, we have advanced technology that measures the functional and structural status of the nerve that can be damaged in glaucoma. These extremely accurate devices quantify the amount of healthy tissue to the thousandth of a millimeter and can also analyze changes that may occur from one year to the next.
Colored graphics demonstrate areas of normal nerve tissue (green), borderline (yellow) and abnormal (red) for all areas of nerve tissue in the center of the retina and surrounding the optic nerve. By comparing these values to expected norms for patients of a given age, doctors at Roholt Vision Institute can determine a relative risk for glaucoma for each individual patient.
Treatment: Once the diagnosis of glaucoma has been made, there are many possible treatments. Most practitioners will start patients on an eye drop that will lower the intraocular pressure in the eye and help prevent further damage to the eye. This year will see several new medications come to market for that exact purpose. Lasers are also an option, as are surgeries on the eye, but those are usually reserved for more severe cases of glaucoma. According to RVI Clinic Director Dr. Brian Mathie, “there has never been a better time to have glaucoma than today. Thanks to incredible technology at RVI and improved treatment options, in most cases patients can expect effective treatment that will afford them very good vision for the rest of their lives.”
Being able to measure the exact values of healthy nerve tissue over time is the most important aspect of monitoring glaucoma for progression or worsening of the disease. State of the art technology allows Roholt Vision Institute to evaluate each exam for any changes in the nerve tissue, however subtle they may be.
Scheduling an eye exam to evaluate the intraocular pressure and the health of the optic nerve is important for each and everyone one of us, but especially important for people who have risk factors such as a family history of glaucoma, African Americans, the elderly and anyone who has a history of elevated pressure in the eye.