Some people are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma, a vision-threatening disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve, than others. In the ophthalmology world, these people are referred to as glaucoma suspects.
Glaucoma suspects are different from actual glaucoma patients. Actual glaucoma patients have proven optic nerve damage and visual field defects. Glaucoma suspects do not have optic nerve damage. They may present or have more risk factors for having glaucoma, but it is also possible that they may never develop true glaucoma. There are several million glaucoma suspects in the U.S. alone, but only a small percentage end up with actual glaucoma.
Who are the Glaucoma Suspects?
At Sugarland Eye & Laser Center, a top eye care facility in Houston, Texas, eye doctors identify glaucoma suspects based on the following risk factors:
Higher- than-average internal eye pressure (IOP). Eye pressure is the main concern for ophthalmologists. Eye pressure is measured in terms of millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Normal IOP is between 10 to 21 mmHg. A person with elevated eye pressure has an IOP greater than 21 mm Hg. Eye doctors refer to suspects with elevated eye pressure as ocular hypertensive.
Family history of glaucoma
Having a thin cornea
Determining Glaucoma Suspects
Houston eye doctors may use different ways to determine whether yours is a case of true glaucoma or not. These include:
Eye examination (vision field, pupils, corneal thickness, eye pressure)
Gonioscopy (examination of the drainage angle of the eye)
Baseline visual field testing
Optic nerve imaging
I have high IOP. Do I need treatment?
Regular eye checkups and monitoring is key to identifying and treating a glaucoma suspect. The point of monitoring is to identify the earliest of damage so that appropriate treatment can be made to preserve visual function and stop progression of glaucoma.
For individuals who are identified as high risk for developing optic nerve damage, preventative treatment, usually by lowering IOP, may be prescribed. Your eye doctor will determine if you need treatment or not. If treatment is needed, two initial options are available:
Topical eye drops. Glaucoma damage occurs when IOP is continually high. A clinical trial study shows that the damage progresses at an average of 2% per year. If IOP-lowering eye drops were taken, the rate of damage slows down to 1% per year. By lowering your IOP, eye drops help reduce the risk of developing glaucoma.
Laser treatment of the drainage angle. This is a simple outpatient procedure that uses a beam of light to increase fluid draining from your. By decreasing IOP, laser treatment may stop progression of glaucoma.
Can I have LASIK surgery if I am a Glaucoma Suspect?
In a study published by the Review of Ophthalmology, it shows that 64% of glaucoma specialists and 74% of corneal specialists said they would recommend laser eye surgery if the patient wanted it. Most also think that glaucoma is not a contradiction to refractive surgery. To see if you are a good candidate for laser eye surgery, see your LASIK specialist.
Sugarland Eye & Laser Center leads in providing premium LASIK technologies to Houston, Sugar Land, and the surrounding region. The Center’s award-winning medical director introduced revolutionary technologies such as iLASIK to the region. This technology is used by NASA astronauts, Navy SEALS and Air Force fighter pilots. At Sugarland Eye & Laser Center, you can now receive the same treatment. For more information, please call (281) 240-0478 or visit us at www.houston-lasik.com.
About the Author
Amjad Khokhar, M.D. is Chief LASIK Surgeon at Sugarland Eye & Laser Center. Add Dr. Khokhar on Google+ here.