Tuesday, January 10, 2012
A Recipe For Good Vision Health - Get An Eye Exam!
Today was my annual trip to the ophthalmologist to have my eye pressures tested and my optic nerves examined. I have been doing this for 28 years because I have glaucoma in both eyes. Next week I will have my visual field test and some nice computer pictures taken of my optic nerves. ( Don't expect to see them on my Christmas card next year, however.) The report today was excellent and my new ophthalmologist, Dr. Christ, was super nice. While talking to me and showing me some results from today's tests she was looking at my records and said "Holy Cow, you do NOT look anywhere near your age. Wow!" Guess that made the whole trip worthwhile. : )
I was fortunate. While having a routine eye exam for new glasses when I was 35, the optometrist who was doing my exam asked if she could check my eye pressure after spending a very long time looking in my eyes. I said sure, why not? She took the pressures and then asked if she could test them again. My answer - sure, why not? After she finished my examination, she talked with me and said she had some concerns about my intra ocular eye pressure and asked if I could return the next morning for another pressure check. Since the office was in the mall where I worked, I told her it was no problem since I arrived at 8 am every morning. Once again, she tested my eye pressures and said she would like to refer me to a specialist, an ophthalmologist. She said my pressures were high and my optic nerves showed some signs of damage. Of course I agreed, because who wants to lose their vision - especially at age 35.
I made my trip to the ophthalmologist the next day. He did a very thorough examination and some additional tests. When he was finished he talked with me and told me that I had glaucoma in both of my eyes. Glaucoma causes increased intra ocular pressures which then damages your optic nerves. Fortunately, there are many medications that can help control these pressures and keep them in check. He wrote a prescription for a medication called Timoptic and told me how to use it, one drop in each eye every morning and every evening. I had to return several times the next month to test my pressures to see if the medication was doing it's job. Fortunately, it was working very well.
For many years, that controlled my eye pressures and kept them in the teens which is considered very good. After about 15 years, my pressures began to increase again and another medication was added. After 28 years, I am now on optimum medications which is a total of 4 different kinds of drops. The "up" side is, my optic nerve damage has not advanced nor have I lost any of my peripheral vision due to my strict regimen of using my medications and not taking other medications or doing things that can increase eye pressures. Things like riding roller coasters and amusement park rides. Who knew?
Glaucoma is a silent condition that really has no symptoms. It is caused by a build up of intra ocular fluid that cannot drain from the natural pathways in the eyeball. The increased fluid presses on the optic nerves and damages them. The damage is irreversible. There is not always an explanation of why. Many times, people lose their vision without knowing they have glaucoma. It takes several years of increased pressure to damage the optic nerve, but because there are no symptoms they do not know they even have glaucoma until the damage is done. The damage is permanent and there is no reversal procedure. This does not have to happen.
It is important to see your eye care professional annually for an examination after the age of 50. By this time, many are wearing glasses to help see small print when reading. I have been wearing glasses since I was 20 because of nearsightedness or myopia. That meant that I regularly saw an eye care professional when I needed new glasses. Had I not needed glasses, I probably would not have seen a professional and would have suffered irreparable damage. This is one time to be thankful for wearing glasses.
Glaucoma in patients under 40 is very rare. My doctor at the time said he had no explanation for it. Absolutely no one in my family has had glaucoma, but it does tend to run in families. If you know of relatives who have glaucoma, it is very important that you get frequent examinations, especially as you age. If you do the math, you will know that I am 63 now and very grateful to a very observant optometrist 28 years ago.
The one symptom that someone with glaucoma may have is seeing halos around headlights of cars and streetlights. Otherwise, there are none. That is why a good eye examination is very important.
Of course, there are many other eye disorders and diseases that exist. Glaucoma just happens to be a very silent one. African Americans have a greater tendency for this eye disorder as well as people who have it in their families. Also, diabetics are more prone to glaucoma.
There is a surgery available when eye pressures can no longer be controlled with medication, but it is considered a last response because of possible complications resulting in vision loss.
I don't know about you, but I value my eyesight and do not want to lose it. Please, take the time to make an appointment for an eye examination if it has been a while or you have never had one. It could be as important as saving your vision. Don't wait.
Things to Remember:
“No one ever injured his eyesight by looking on the bright side of things” unknown