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Untreated glaucoma is the most common cause of blindness in the world. Visual loss occurs when glaucoma progressively deteriorates the second cranial nerve (optic nerve) responsible for sending visual information from your retina to the occipital lobe of the brain. Consisting over nearly one and half million nerve fibers, the optic nerve is actually a component of your central nervous system, somewhat resembling myelinated nerve cells found in the brain and spine. Eye doctors strongly recommend adults over 40 get a glaucoma test every year from their optometrists, even if they do not have problems with vision. Glaucoma does not cause symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage and begins impairing peripheral vision.
No cure exists for glaucoma. In addition, vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be restored with surgery or medication. However, you may be able to halt or delay progression of optic nerve damage by using special eye drops and making lifestyle changes contributing to hypertension/high blood pressure.
Like your body, your eyes need to maintain a specific pressure level to function properly. When intraocular pressure is too high, damage to the optic nerve may occur that leads to vision loss. Normal IOP is around 16 mmHg. Eye doctors consider IOP measuring over 20 mmHg a possible precursor to development of glaucoma. Healthy optic nerves have a rim of tissue defined by its color and contour. When damaged by high IOP, the optic nerve suffers "cupping", or a backward curve to this rim that almost always indicates glaucoma.
During your glaucoma exam, our Ashburn eye doctor will pay particular attention to investigating the condition of the optic nerve, the anterior chamber angle and your ability to see at your periphery. Tonometry measure intraocular pressure by numbing the eye with drops and applying a minimal amount of pressure, usually with a puff of air. A tonometer than gauges intraocular pressure according to how the eye reacts to pressure. To examine the optic nerve, your optomotrist will dilate your pupil with eye drops and view the optic nerve using a device equipped with a magnifier and intense light.
If elevated intraocular pressure is causing your glaucoma, our eye doctor may recommend eye drops or laser surgery to reduce IOP. For people with early stage glaucoma, special eye drops are typically prescribed containing prostaglandins, a selection of lipid compounds exerting hormone-like effects in humans. Prostaglandin eye drops relax muscles within the eye to improve fluid outflow and reduce pressure buildup.
Laser trabeculoplasty is another option for lowering IOP which involves your doctor using a highly focused light beam to treat your eye's drainage angle. This minimally invasive procedure facilitates the flow of fluid out of the front of your eye which decreases pressure and significantly reduces optic nerve damage. When eye drops fail to stabilize IOP, laser trabeculoplasty is usually helpful for reducing IOP.
If you are over 40 and haven't had a glaucoma test recently, please call our optometrist, Dr. Seema Mohanan of OptimEYES today at (703) 687-4719 to schedule an appointment. In addition to serving Ashburn residents, our optometry clinic, OptimEYES, also serves residents of Broadlands, Waxpool, Sterling, Brambleton, and Lansdowne of Virginia.