Why Comprehensive Exams are a Better Method for Early Glaucoma Detection.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States and the leading cause of irreversible blindness. Called the “silent thief of sight,” the disease can reach an advanced stage long before visible changes in vision occur. Unfortunately, many people believe that they do not have the disease because they had a normal “air puff” screening.
An estimated three million Americans have glaucoma, but only half know it. Glaucoma is a complex disease caused by damage to the optic nerve. There are many types of glaucoma. The most common type of glaucoma is narrow-angle glaucoma, which accounts for 70% of all adult cases of the disease. In early stages, patients do not experience symptoms. Because of this, researchers estimate that up to 40% of vision loss occurs before patients notice any sight impairment. Vision loss begins peripherally and eventually begins to close in causing a permanent tunnel vision, which fades out entirely if not treated adequately.
High-Pressure is Not the Only Risk Factor
Most people are familiar with the non-contact tonometry test (NCT) used to detect glaucoma. More commonly referred to as the “puff” test, NCT measures pressure within the eye. The presence of high pressure indicates a risk for or potential presence of glaucoma. While high pressure in the eye is considered a strong risk factor, some people with glaucoma have normal NCT readings.
Other risk factors include:
- A family history of glaucoma
- Age (40-years old or older)
- African, Hispanic or Asian heritage
- Previous injury or injuries to the eye
- History of corticosteroid use
- History of diabetes, high blood pressure or circulatory diseases
Dilated Exams Catch Silent Symptoms
A comprehensive eye health examination with your eyes dilated helps detect the silent thief of sight before vision loss occurs. Dilation allows your eye doctor to examine the structure of the optic nerve to find the signs of damage. Monitoring any changes in the optic nerve with regularly scheduled examinations is the best defense against vision loss from glaucoma.
Early Detection Means Early Intervention
While glaucoma has no cure, early treatment reduces the risk of vision loss. For most patients, treatment requires prescription eye drops which lower the pressure in the eye. This treatment prevents or slows the progression of optic nerve damage. Some patients need surgery to control vision loss. While treatment cannot reverse existing damage, prevention of further damage and vision loss is possible with ongoing care.
Comprehensive Exams Also Detect Other Conditions
Dilating the pupil also allows your eye doctor to examine the retina for signs of other diseases related to diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune disorders, and other conditions. Many of these conditions affect the ability to enjoy life, especially as we age.
Following the recommendations of the National Institute of Health and our Medicare health plan partners, iCare Health Solutions offers annual comprehensive eye exams for members who have risk factors.
September is Healthy Aging Month as recognized by the National Institute of Health. Why not take advantage of your coverage and schedule a comprehensive eye exam with one of our optometrists in the iCare Health Solutions network?