Glaucoma Expert: Why Early Detection & Treatment Is Essential

Jan 24, 2022 | Blog

If you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s important to understand this progressive eye condition and how it can impact one’s life. Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve. It can occur without noticeable symptoms, and it often goes undiagnosed and may worsen over time. For this reason, many doctors and healthcare professionals encourage patients to schedule regular eye exams to help detect any vision issues. 

Undiagnosed and untreated glaucoma can limit a person’s field of view, quality of vision, and could eventually lead to blindness. All symptoms can potentially be avoided with early detection and treatment. Continue reading to learn more about the condition from one of our glaucoma experts. And hear from a patient in the Living with Glaucoma community who shares their story and what it’s like to live with glaucoma.

Educate Yourself and Learn From a Glaucoma Expert

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and the effects of the condition are irreversible. Since there are often little to no symptoms, the only way to detect glaucoma is through eye exams. Once diagnosed, glaucoma can be successfully managed and treated. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma, talk to your healthcare provider about which treatment option is best for you. A couple of options include prescription eye drops and laser treatment. Those who also have cataracts may be eligible for micro-invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS), such as the iStent inject® W.

Taking advice from a doctor that specializes in glaucoma may help you learn more about the condition and the proper steps to take if you have been diagnosed! We recently spoke with Dr. Jonathan Haymore of Multicare Rockwood Eye Surgery Center in Spokane, Washington. Dr. Haymore specializes in cataracts and glaucoma, with a focus on diagnosing and treating patients in laser and surgical glaucoma management. He shares how important it is to monitor your eye health. Check out the Q&A below.

Why is early detection of glaucoma important?

My staff and I always talk about how glaucoma is the hardest eye disease that we have to treat. With most eye problems, the patient comes in knowing something is wrong. Glaucoma, for the most part, has no symptoms. The ways to detect and follow the progression of glaucoma have improved so much that with early detection we can prevent a lot of the vision loss that used to occur more frequently. The key is to have a regular eye exam where a trained eye doctor can recognize glaucoma in its early stages.

Is there a genetic component to glaucoma, and should people with affected relatives monitor their eye health more closely?

Unfortunately, glaucoma is an eye disease that can definitely run in families. We have many examples in our practice of glaucoma affecting generations of family members. I think a good piece of advice is that if you have a close family member with glaucoma, then you should be evaluated at least once a year. 

What can happen if someone’s glaucoma is not detected early and left untreated?

The hardest thing about glaucoma is that there are no symptoms until it is already in an advanced stage. You can damage a large part of your optic nerve before it ever becomes apparent in your peripheral vision loss. I lose sleep over a few memorable patients that the first time they came into the office they already had large blind spots from undetected glaucoma. With glaucoma, once the damage is done it cannot be reversed. However, the good news is we have so many ways to detect it early that much of the effects can be avoided. Again, the key is to have regular eye exams where early warning signs can be detected.                       

How has the treatment of glaucoma changed over the last several years? What are some of the available treatment options for glaucoma?

I think glaucoma is one of the most exciting areas in eye care right now. It’s no exaggeration to say that the options for treating glaucoma have tripled in the last 10 years alone. Glaucoma drops to lower eye pressure are still a major part of our treatment decision-making. However, the limitations of drop treatment alone are more recognized now than ever. There are laser options, micro-invasive glaucoma surgeries including iStent inject® W, tube-shunts, and traditional larger incisional-based glaucoma surgeries. We are aiming for better eye pressure control, lower cost, and less burden on the glaucoma patient. It is an exciting time to be a part of the glaucoma treatment revolution.

Learning From Experience 

George knows firsthand how important it is to detect and treat glaucoma early. After his father lost vision in one eye from the condition, George always feared he would lose his vision as well since he grew up wearing glasses. George knew that he was at a higher risk of developing glaucoma because of his family history of the condition and his African American ethnicity. For these reasons, he was vigilant about attending his eye appointments to stay on top of his eye health. At one of those routine visits, George was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes, as well as cataracts, which altered his vision. At first, George was prescribed eye drops to reduce his eye pressure. Eventually, George and his physician decided to treat his glaucoma with iStent inject® W in conjunction with cataract surgery. Now, George feels like there has been a weight lifted off of his shoulders, as he knows that his glaucoma is under control. Read more about George’s Glaucoma Journey here. 

Staying on Top of Your Eye Health

Your eye health is important and we hope you now have a better understanding of glaucoma! Don’t forget, it’s essential to stay on top of your eye appointments and discuss what treatment options are right for you with your healthcare provider.

For more information on glaucoma and available treatment options or to hear more from those in the living with glaucoma community, visit our blog. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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