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In the U.S., more than 2 million individuals are estimated to be living with glaucoma, and that number is expected to increase by 50%, to more than 3 million, by 2020. Dr. Nikhil Wagle, a Glaucoma Specialist, shares some basic information about glaucoma.

Glaucoma is an eye disease typically characterized by elevated pressure in the eye that causes damage to the optic nerve and defects in the field of vision. Usually, peripheral vision or “side” vision is lost first. This often goes unnoticed. Ultimately, central or reading vision is affected.

Because glaucoma is a painless disease in most cases, patients are frequently unaware that they have a problem until significant visual loss has already occurred. It has been estimated that fully half of all those with glaucoma are unaware of their diagnosis. Unfortunately, visual loss caused by glaucoma is irreversible.

Glaucoma can develop at any age. However, it most often affects those 45 years of age or older. Groups at increased risk include: people who have a family history of glaucoma, African and Hispanic Americans, people who have diabetes, hypertension, myopia (nearsightedness), poor ocular circulation, a previous eye injury, people who have used steroid/cortisone medications on a long-term basis and especially people with elevated intraocular pressure.

Some patients can develop glaucoma without ever having a high pressure. In other cases, individuals with elevated eye pressures may never develop glaucoma. Clearly, there are other factors than eye pressure which play a part in the development of disease. The only way to determine if your eye pressure is “normal” for you is by a thorough eye examination and monitoring.

Current treatments include topical and/or oral medications, laser surgery or conventional surgery. The newest treatment for mild to moderate open angle glaucoma is the iStent Trabecular Micro-Bypass. Inserted in conjunction with cataract surgery, the iStent works like stents to prevent heart attacks and strokes. Based on the discretion of your doctor, this treatment may reduce the number of glaucoma medications needed. Watch my You Tube video for more information.

Hopefully, research will help identify the cause of glaucoma and improve methods of detection and treatment of this insidious and devastating disease.

Nikhil Wagle, M.D., with Eye Surgeons Associates, is board certified with a fellowship in Glaucoma. He sees patients in our Silvis, Rock Island, Muscatine and Bettendorf offices. For more information visit our Glaucoma pages .

The material contained in this article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider.

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