NYACK, N.Y. -- Glaucoma, a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, is a leading cause of blindness for people over age 60. Fortunately, blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early diagnosis and treatment, according to Dr. Andrew Spinak of Spinak Medical Eye Center and a staff member at Nyack Hospital.
Below, he answers several common questions regarding glaucoma development, diagnosis and treatment:
What is glaucoma and what causes it?
No one knows what causes most glaucoma. The risk of the disease increases with age, and generally appears after age 40. It usually happens when the eye makes too much fluid or does not drain fluid as well as it should.
Does glaucoma cause symptoms?
The most common type of glaucoma, called open-angle glaucoma, is painless and causes no vision change at first. That is why it is so important to go for annual glaucoma screenings. As with many diseases, the earlier glaucoma is diagnosed, the more successful the treatment is likely to be.
What does a glaucoma exam consist of?
The gold standard for testing for glaucoma is the visual field test. The most common visual field test uses a light spot that is repeatedly presented in different areas of your field of vision. The test shows how your eye nerves are working. If you don’t see light in certain areas, it indicates the nerves in that area have died.
What is the goal of treatment?
The goal of treating glaucoma is to manage it and slow it down. Currently there is no cure. We may use eye drops, laser surgery, traditional eye surgery or a combination. Some patients who are faced with the cost, side effects and inconvenience of a lifetime of eye drops opt for laser surgery. Others choose eye drops because they prefer to avoid any type of eye procedure.
How do eye drops treat glaucoma?
Eye drops for glaucoma must be used every day, sometimes several times a day. Some drops reduce the amount of fluid in the eye, while others reduce pressure by promoting fluid drainage.
How does laser treatment help?
Laser treatment promotes fluid drainage and is effective about 70 percent of the time. In this outpatient procedure, we use a laser to open up the filtering system in the eye to make the drainage work better. This lets the fluid flow out properly and reduces eye pressure.
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