(WIBW) - It's the second leading cause of blindness in our county, but few of us know what glaucoma is.
Eye care professionals are trying to get the word out during January's National Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Dr. Babek Marefat, an opthamologist with Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Clinic, says in glaucoma, elevated pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve, reducing blood supply to the smaller vessels that feed off the optic nerve, causing them to whither and die.
Marefat says the peripheral vessels go first and the subsequent damage leads to loss of peripheral vision. That initial loss often goes unnoticed.
Unchecked, the vision loss will slowly creep toward your central vision and, eventually, you could go blind.
However. Marefat says, reducing the pressure can slow the progression or stop it and reach stability with the vision.
That's what makes an annual dilated eye exam so important. While it can't be prevented, anyone can get glaucoma. Your risk is increased if it runs in your family. Marefat doctors also are starting to see a correlation between glaucoma and obstructive sleep apena and vascular conditions in general. In a vision exam, doctors can look for elevated pressures or damage to the optic nerve and catch the first signs of a potential problem.
Elevated pressures can be controlled long-term with medications. Some more severe cases might require surgery to reduce the pressure in the eye.