North Atlanta Primary Care

News and Articles

National Glaucoma Awareness Month

Posted on January 27, 2013 by Dr. Terence Moraczewski, MD

An important aspect of maintaining good health is the prevention of illness and disease. The ability to see clearly is critical for any individual to react and adapt to a sensory world. The gift of eyesight is something we often take for granted. With age, the risk of losing our vision increases, especially due to glaucoma.

This condition, which can affect any age group, is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. The disease often presents initially without any symptoms, robbing peripheral vision before attacking what we see straight ahead. There is often no pain, so deterioration of vision can accelerate quietly yet irreversibly.  Glaucoma affects more than three million Americans, but many are unaware until the later stages of progression. In fact, most people have heard of glaucoma but really do not understand what it is, the risk factors, and treatment measures.

There are actually four different types of glaucoma: open-angle, angle-closure, congenital, and secondary glaucoma. Vision loss occurs from damage to the optic nerve. The nerve becomes injured when pressure gradually builds inside the eyeball from several sources. The most common form of glaucoma is the open-angle variety. It is a chronic condition that occurs slowly without any obvious discomfort and no apparent cause.

Once vision loss is noticed, it is severe and permanent, often leading to tunnel vision then total blindness. Angle-closure glaucoma comes on much quicker, requiring more immediate attention. Fluid inside the eyeball is blocked, building up pressure rapidly. Vision often seems hazy, with rainbow haloes around lights. Pain can come on suddenly, typically in one eye first. The eye feels swollen and looks bloodshot. Congenital glaucoma presents in newborns and usually is observed when the child is a few months old. The baby will be extremely sensitive to light, tearing often. The eyes will appear red and cloudy. Secondary glaucoma is caused by another source, such as a chronic disease, infection, or trauma.

The risk for developing most forms of glaucoma is primarily inherent or genetic. Advancing age is a major risk like most conditions of sensory loss. Ethnicity also plays a major causative role. Specifically, African Americans are fifteen times more likely to experience visual impairment from glaucoma than Caucasians. It is the leading cause of blindness for African Americans, occurring ten years earlier on average than other races.

Angle closure glaucoma often occurs from a drug reaction. Secondary glaucoma can result from an accident but is also associated with advanced diabetes, heart disease, and cataracts. The diagnosis of glaucoma is confirmed by special testing. This includes measuring the intraocular pressure of the eye with a tonometer, performing peripheral field testing, and examining the optic nerve and retina with an ophthalmoscope.

Once glaucoma is diagnosed, treatment is essential to prevent further loss of vision. This includes special eye drops taken daily, laser therapy, or eye surgery to reduce the pressure inside the eyeball. The best treatment for glaucoma is early prevention. Once symptoms of visual loss appear for the most common chronic form of glaucoma, the condition has progressed significantly. Since visual changes cannot be reversed, the goal is to detect early and control further deterioration of sight.

An estimated 2.2 Americans have glaucoma but only half have been diagnosed. In order to protect sight and prevent blindness, vision must be tested on a regular basis. All adults and children need regular eye checkups. Medicare covers annual glaucoma screenings for people at increased risk, such as those with diabetes, family history of glaucoma, and African Americans over age fifty. Glaucoma awareness is the first step to take action. Protect the precious gift of eyesight. Begin this year with the resolution to get yourself and family members screened for this insidious yet progressive disease

Alpharetta: 3400-C Old Milton Parkway, Suite 270, Alpharetta, GA 30005
Braselton: 1255 Friendship Road, Suite 130, Braselton, GA 30517
Cumming: 1800 Northside Forsyth Drive, Suite 450, Cumming, GA 30041
East Cobb: 1121 Johnson Ferry Road, Suite 450, Marietta, GA 30068
Johns Creek: 4235 Johns Creek Parkway, Suite A, Suwanee, GA 30024
Sandy Springs: 1150 Hammond Dr., Building E, Suite 310, Atlanta, GA 30328
Sugar Hill: 4700 Nelson Brogdon Blvd., Suite 250, Buford, GA 30518
West Paces: 3200 Downwood Circle NW, Suite 200, Atlanta, GA 30327
Woodstock: 250 Parkbrooke Place, Suite 300, Woodstock, GA 30189

All locations: 770-442-1911