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Regular Eye Exams Critical to Early Diagnosis, Treatment of Glaucoma
By Louis A. Lobes, Jr., M.D.

Louis A. Lobes, Jr., M.D.Primary open angle glaucoma is a chronic and progressive eye disease occurring mostly in adults. It is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide affecting approximately 2 percent of adults 40 years and older. The 2.2 million patients affected in the United States are expected to rise to 3.3 million by 2020.

The disease occurs when increased pressure within the eye, combined with currently unknown other factors, leads to damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the large nerve at the back of the eye that carries the entire message of vision back to the region of the brain that allows us to see what the retina has recorded. It most often affects both eyes, but the severity of the damage may be different in each eye.

Most patients with glaucoma do not have any symptoms, but as the disease progresses the ongoing damage to the optic nerve gradually reduces the peripheral field of vision which, in its severe form, can significantly restrict mobility and quality of life. Because of its silent presentation, the only way to detect it in its early stages is to have a comprehensive eye examination every two years, and perhaps yearly after the age 65. There are many treatments that have proved successful in helping to preserve the visual fields and optic nerve of patients with glaucoma. These include daily drops, laser treatments and various types of surgery.

As with other chronic and progressive diseases, the best outcomes are possible when the disease is diagnosed in its earliest stages, and the patient is able to persist with the continued, accurate use of the medicines prescribed by the treating physician, even though the patient has no actual adverse visual symptoms during that time.

Therefore, the best way to discover if you are a glaucoma patient and the best way to diagnose the disease in its early stages is to regularly have comprehensive eye exams even if you have no visual symptoms. And, if you are diagnosed with glaucoma, you must follow up as recommended by the treating ophthalmologist, and accurately and persistently use the prescribed medications.

Dr. Louis Lobes, Jr., a board certified ophthalmologist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is board chairperson of Blind & Vision Rehabilitation Services of Pittsburgh. For more information, call (412) 368-4400 or visit www.bvrpittsburgh.org.

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