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Glaucoma Need Not Steal Sight, Experts Say
Date:4/20/2012

e pain in your eye, get seen right away at the ER," said Dr. Gregory Harmon, a New York City ophthalmologist who's chairman of the Glaucoma Foundation. "Without treatment, you can have a permanent loss of vision."

People who have a family history of glaucoma are more likely to develop glaucoma themselves. Harmon said that blacks and Hispanics have a four to five times higher risk for glaucoma than whites. Older people, especially those who are also developing cataracts, have an increased risk of glaucoma as well, according to Fromer. And those who take any type of steroid medication -- whether it's oral, inhaled or even a topical cream -- also face a higher risk for glaucoma, he noted.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people older than 40 have a baseline eye exam and then discuss how often follow-up visits are necessary based on their particular glaucoma risk factors. After 65, testing is recommended every year or two.

The most commonly used test for glaucoma is called tonometry, which involves looking into a device that blows a small puff of air into your eye. Though it can be slightly startling, the test is painless. Another important tool for detecting glaucoma is the dilated eye exam, which Harmon said "allows us to look at the optic nerve and evaluate the optic nerve health."

If there's evidence of optic nerve damage, your eye doctor will probably conduct a visual field test as well. You'll be asked to click a button whenever you see flashes of light, which lets the doctor determine whether you've lost any peripheral vision.

If the doctor diagnoses glaucoma, treatment usually begins with eye drops that help lower pressure in the eyes. Eye drops can decrease fluid production, or they can help open the drainage ducts. There are also oral medications that can be used, according to Harmon. Eye drops may need to be used as many as four times a day, but Fromer said that most eye doctors start with once-daily drops
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