Support Group Meeting
Date: Saturday, February 4th
Time: 10 a.m.
Location: Mass Eye and Ear Infirmary
243 Charles Street, Boston
8th floor board room
Angela V. Turalba, M.D.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
No, but early detection and treatment of glaucoma can help prevent irreversible blindness from this disease. There is good evidence showing that lowering eye pressure can help stop or slow progression of glaucoma. Eye pressure is currently the only modifiable risk factor for glaucoma, and eye pressure can be controlled with medications, laser or conventional surgery.
2. Why is the incidence more common in blacks and other people of color?
Epidemiological studies have shown that open angle glaucoma — the most common form of glaucoma — occurs four to eight times more often in blacks than in whites. It also occurs at a younger age in blacks compared to whites. In addition, glaucoma is more common in Hispanics compared to whites, but less common than in blacks. However, the reason why it occurs more frequently in these populations is still unknown.
3. Why does the risk increase with age?
It is well known that older age is a known risk factor for glaucoma, especially in persons over the age of 60. The reason for this increased risk is likely multi-factorial. There are a number of structural and physiological changes that occur within the aging eye that can predispose older persons to glaucoma.
4. Can a person with glaucoma do something to improve his or her sight?
That depends. Patients with glaucoma can also have other eye conditions such as cataracts that cause poor vision. Poor vision from cataracts can be improved with glasses or surgery. However, vision loss resulting from glaucoma is irreversible, and early detection and treatment are critical in preventing blindness from this disease. Persons with glaucoma often have poor peripheral vision and contrast sensitivity, the ability to distinguish objects from similarly colored or shaded backgrounds. Vision rehabilitation specialists can offer mobility training and optical aids that assist persons with glaucoma perform their daily activities.
5. Why does being nearsighted increase the risk for glaucoma?
More evidence now shows that nearsightedness, or myopia, is a risk factor for glaucoma, especially for persons with a moderate to high degree of myopia. People with significant nearsightedness often have longer eyes and other structural features of their eyes that can make the optic nerve more susceptible to damage that can result in glaucoma.
6. When glaucoma runs in a family, does it strike at a younger age?
Glaucoma can occur at a younger age in patients who have a strong family history of the disease. In a small subset of patients, there are known gene mutations associated with glaucoma that manifests in young adulthood. In general, individuals with a parent or sibling with known glaucoma are at a significantly higher risk for having the disease and should be screened for glaucoma.
7. How often should people have their eyes examined to check for glaucoma?
An annual eye exam which includes dilation of the pupil is usually sufficient to screen those without a diagnosis of glaucoma, but have a family history or other risk factors for the disease. Patients already diagnosed with glaucoma are seen on a regular basis, usually every 3-6 months, to monitor eye pressure and vision.
8. Why is pupil dilation recommended during an eye exam?
Pupil dilation during an eye exam allows for a complete evaluation of the lens, retina and optic nerve — the parts of the eye that allow us to see images. A thorough examination of the eyes enables eye doctors to diagnose and monitor common eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Detection and treatment for these diseases can help prevent blindness.
9. Is it possible for a person with glaucoma to have 20/20 vision?
Yes. Visual acuity is a measure of how well a person can see at various distances. A person with glaucoma can have 20/20 vision because glaucoma typically affects peripheral vision before it affects the central vision used to read. Most patients therefore do not realize they have glaucoma until the disease is in its advanced stages. Formal visual field testing, which evaluates peripheral or side vision, can identify the degree of vision loss to glaucoma even if central vision is intact. Patients who have lost a significant portion of their peripheral vision to glaucoma can have difficulty with night driving and mobility.