Column: Beware of glaucoma dangers

Commentary by Dr. Tammy Wittmann

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that randomly steal your sight without warning and often without symptoms.

In a healthy eye, there is a balance that is achieved between fluid produced in the eye and fluid leaving the eye. But with glaucoma, either too much fluid is produced or not enough leaves the eye. Either of these problems increases the pressure in your eyes. Continuous elevated pressure damages the optic nerve. It’s important to note that it is this damage that is glaucoma, not high pressure. About 30 percent of patients with glaucoma have what is considered normal pressure for the eyes.

If left untreated, damage to the optic nerve can lead to vision loss and even blindness. Here is a true case in my practice. I saw a 72-year-old man who was a farmer. He had never had a comprehensive eye examination. His distance vision was always pretty good but he started wearing over the counter readers in his late 40’s. When he was 72 he realized the readers were no longer helping his vision so he came to see me. Unfortunately he had end-stage glaucoma in both eyes and the optic nerve was irreversibly damaged. There were no prescription glasses that could help him see better. There were no treatments that could bring back his vision. The only thing we could do was to try to save his remaining vision, which by this time was like a very restricted tunnel.

There are several treatment options available when glaucoma is caught soon enough. Your eye doctor may suggest eye drops, a laser procedure or a surgical procedure depending on the type and severity of your glaucoma.

This is only one reason for a seemingly healthy person with 20/20 vision to get an annual comprehensive eye examination. Call your eye doctor and schedule yours today if you haven’t already.