The following article was contributed by Dr. Steven Zabin, Westmed Eye Care Specialist:
Glaucoma is a very misunderstood disease, and Glaucoma Awareness Month in January is an important time to spread the word about it. Some people confuse it with cataracts, don’t realize its severity or know who is affected. A disease of the optic nerve, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in the U.S.
It is often caused by the buildup of a fluid called the aqueous humor, which creates too much intraocular pressure (IOP) inside the eye. This pressure damages the optic nerve fibers, which leads to the development of blind spots in your field of vision. A person usually does not notice these blind spots until the optic nerve is significantly damaged. Regular eye examinations and treatment are the keys to preventing vision loss from glaucoma.
There are two types of glaucoma: open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the more common form, in which your eye becomes less efficient at draining aqueous humor over time. Closed-angle glaucoma is less common, but more urgent. With closed angle glaucoma, the drainage angle is blocked by the iris so that pressure in the eye builds up very quickly and is a medical emergency.
What are the risk factors for glaucoma?
Risk factors for glaucoma include age (people over 60); family history; elevated eye pressure (IOP); African, Hispanic or Asian ancestry; diabetes; previous eye injury; thin corneas and low blood pressure.
What are the treatment options?
There is no cure for glaucoma—yet. But medication and/or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss.
• Medicine: Open-angle glaucoma is usually treated with eye drops that lower IOP. If you are prescribed eye drops for glaucoma, you must take them regularly. [Editor’s note: Incidentally, the active ingredient in one of the eye drops—bimatoprost—is also used in Latisse, a product that has been found to have eyelash-growing properties.]
• Laser Treatment: Trabeculoplasty and iridotomy are more common laser procedures used to treat open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma, respectively.
• Surgery: Trabeculectomy and the implanting of filtering mechanisms are two surgical procedures commonly used to lower eye pressure and prevent progressive vision loss from glaucoma.
Glaucoma is most commonly controllable
Remember: Vision loss usually can be prevented if detected and treated early. Regular eye exams are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma.
Dr. Steven Zabin sees patients both at 210 Westchester Avenue, White Plains, and at 73 Market Street at Westchester’s Ridge Hill in Yonkers. To reach his office, call (914) 682-6560.