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Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is National Glaucoma Month, a time to spread awareness about the condition that puts pressure on the eye. The specific part of the eye that feels the intense pressure provides information to the brain, the optic nerve. If left untreated, glaucoma can eventually cause total blindness. While this sounds scary, regular testing and eye exams can help providers discover glaucoma before severe damage occurs.

There are many different types of glaucoma, but all create intense pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma slowly damages the optic nerve over a lifetime, and the exact cause is unknown. Still, it most often occurs in people over 40 and people with a family history of glaucoma. Before treating glaucoma, your provider will need to determine what kind of glaucoma is developing. Because glaucoma is a progressive disease, worsening over time, Ophthalmologists look for a change in the appearance of the optic nerve, loss of nerve tissue, and a corresponding loss of vision before confirming the glaucoma diagnosis.

The goal in treating glaucoma is to lower the pressure on the optic nerve, and many factors determine how low a person’s eye pressure should be to address glaucoma-related symptoms. Some people need their eye pressure to be shallow, while others can tolerate very high eye pressure with no problems. Every person is unique and has a different healthy eye pressure. A glaucoma provider will consider a few other criteria to make the correct diagnosis:

  • Family history, personal medical history, and current medications
  • Details of the eye, including cornea thickness, the shape of the eye, and optic nerve
  • Eye pressure
  • The current health of the optic nerve
  • The life expectancy of the person

When providers start treating glaucoma and have a complete understanding of the patient-specific eye pressure needs, there are a few different modes of treatment, starting with medicated eye drops. A provider may determine that medication or surgery is necessary. While there is no cure for glaucoma, early diagnosis and treatment can preserve vision.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms or severe headaches and severe eye pain that come on suddenly, you may have glaucoma and need treatment as soon as possible.

Mary Jo Oyen is Southwest Health’s Ophthalmologist. Dr. Oyen is a Fellow of The American Academy of Ophthalmology. She has a special interest in refractive cataract surgery and micro-invasive glaucoma surgery. She does several oculoplastic surgeries including blepharoplasty (removing excess skin from upper eyelids), ectropion (outward turning of the eyelid), and entropion (inward turning of the eyelid). She brings years of surgical experience with advanced technologies to the community where she was raised.

Our team at The Eye Center at Southwest Health specializes in advanced care for your eyes, from exams to surgery and everything in between, including glasses and lenses. You and your vision are the focus of everything we do.  So, if you need to know your eyesight is in expert hands, rest assured with us, we will always treat you and your sight right.

As glaucoma care continues, a provider will develop more information for the patient and create a trajectory of where the condition is heading. If it looks like glaucoma could get worse and negatively affect vision, your provider can change the target eye pressure and change the treatment. If you have any questions about your eye health or think you may have glaucoma, please do not hesitate to contact the Eye Center at Southwest Health at (608) 342-2020. We have four convenient Eye Center locations in Platteville, both at our hospital and McGregor Plaza, Darlington, and Lancaster.