Glaucoma is a quiet disease. Those affected by it often feel no pain, and the loss of eyesight is so gradual that patients sometimes don’t even realize what’s happening until it’s in the advanced stages.
Dr. Patricia Young with Bridgeport Eye Center said there are 15 types of glaucoma.
“Glaucoma is a disease that is related to the flow of the fluid in the eye, not the blood, but the clear fluid,” she said. “You make too much, and it can’t drain quickly enough or you make the right amount and it gets trapped in the drain.
“Either way the pressure gets too high, and it causes damage to the nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain.”
Dr. Eric Cheng with Therapeutic Optometrist in Decatur said glaucoma is typically discovered by two things: measuring the pressure in the eye and examining the optic nerve.
“It’s a disease that causes permanent blindness,” he said. “It works outside to the center, usually slowly so you won’t notice it.”
Glaucoma is not curable, but there are treatments available to slow the disease.
Young said the most common treatment is eye drop therapy. There are numerous types of drops that doctors may prescribe, depending on the stage of the disease, but she said the most important thing is to never skip a drop.
“Take it when you’re supposed to,” she said. “Consistency in medication is what keeps you where you need to be to keep from losing your vision.”
Some patients may also be candidates for selective laser trabeculoplasty, which will be available locally in February. Young said Dr. John Belardo of Oklahoma City will travel to Bridgeport once a month and do the procedures at North Texas Community Hospital.
She explained that although the therapy has been around for about 15 years, this is the first time it’s been available in Wise County.
“We can delay having to use drops if you get the laser,” she said.
There are also other surgeries that can be performed if the disease is greatly advanced.
Cheng said the onset of the disease usually occurs between ages 45 and 60, and although it’s not necessarily hereditary, a person can be pre-dispositioned for it if they have family members with glaucoma.
Young said in addition to age and family history, ethnicity and injury can also be risk factors. She explained that all patients are screened for glaucoma, but additional testing is done patients at a higher risk.
Dr. Young has been practicing in Wise County since 1995, and Dr. Cheng has been with Therapeutic Optometrist since July of 2012. Dr. Olivia Le also practices at Therapeutic Optometrist.