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6 Common Myths About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease that causes permanent vision loss and and even blindness. It is also called the ‘Sneak-Thief of Sight’ because we don’t feel glaucoma. We would like to help you better understand glaucoma and we want to separate fact from fiction.

Let’s start with a little anatomy lesson. The Retina is the special tissue in the back of the eye, and its job is to capture light and turn it to an electrical signal. The “wires” connect to form the Optic Nerve. The optic nerve sends the signal to the brain. There are many parts of the brain that the optic nerve connects to.

Glaucoma Facts vs. Myths

MYTH 1: Glaucoma is a single disease

FACT

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases; the most common ones are Open-Angle glaucoma (OAG) and Angle-Closure glaucoma (ACG).

Glaucoma is not cancer. When we say a “group” of diseases, it is somewhat similar to “cancer” because just like there are many forms of cancer, there are different types of glaucoma

In Open-Angle glaucoma, the drainage structure in your eye (called the trabecular meshwork) doesn’t allow the fluid inside the eye to flow out as it should. That causes an increase in internal ocular pressure that damages the optic nerve. Again, you don’t feel this extra pressure. Open Angle Glaucoma develops slowly. Usually by the time people are aware of it, they have lost their side vision (peripheral vision loss) because of the damage to the optic nerve

In Narrow-Angle Glaucoma, also known as Angle-Closure Glaucoma, the fluid in the eye does not drain out because the drainage channel between the iris and cornea is too narrow. This pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. ACG can occur suddenly or gradually.

MYTH 2: Only the elderly suffer from glaucoma

FACT

Although it’s true that people over 60 are at a greater risk of developing open-angle glaucoma compared to people in their 40s, there are other types of glaucoma that can affect people aged 20 to 50 and even young infants.

In addition to age, those with a higher risk of developing glaucoma include:

  • African Americans and Hispanics
  • Individuals with a family history of glaucoma
  • Patients with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or sickle cell anemia
  • Those who have previously sustained an eye injury
  • People taking steroid medications over the long term

MYTH 3: Glaucoma shows symptoms early on

FACT

The most common form of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, has almost no signs or symptoms until its later stages when vision loss sets in. Higher eye pressure causes no pain. Glaucoma affects peripheral vision (side vision) is the beginning, so it is hard to notice these changes until someone is far into the disease. Nerve damage is permanent and is impossible to regain. The only way to detect glaucoma is to undergo a comprehensive eye exam.

MYTH 4: Nothing can be done once you have glaucoma

FACT

Similar to Diabetes and High Blood Pressure, Glaucoma is controlled but not cured. The first line treatment for glaucoma is eye drop medications, and at times, laser and surgical procedures. These treatment options reduce the pressure in the eye and decreasing damage to the optic nerve.

MYTH 5: Testing for glaucoma is painful

FACT

Actually, testing for glaucoma is practically painless. In our office we measure the Visual Field and use a special scan of the nerve, called an OCT (optical coherence tomography). Other tests are done to determine if treatment is needed or if monitoring is the best course of action.

MYTH 6: You can’t prevent glaucoma

FACT

The good news is that a yearly comprehensive eye exams can prevent glaucoma by early diagnosis and treatment. In our office, Family Eye Care in Old Bridge this is this is part of every examination. We would be happy to help you. Please consider calling our office to schedule for your comprehensive eye exam.

8 Ways Your Eyes Change With Age

Our eyes and vision change with age. Your eye doctor can monitor these changes — some of which are a natural part of the aging process — and identify any eye conditions or diseases early enough to treat them and prevent vision loss. Read on to learn more about the different types of eye changes one may encounter with age.

Age-Related Eye Conditions and Diseases

Cataracts

If your vision is starting to get blurry, you may be developing cataracts. There are a few types of cataracts, but the one usually caused by aging is known as a “nuclear cataract”. At first, it may lead to increased nearsightedness or even a temporary improvement in your reading vision. But with time, the lens gradually turns more densely yellow and clouds your vision. As the cataract slowly progresses, the lens may even turn brown. Advanced yellowing or browning of the lens can lead to difficulty distinguishing between shades of color, and left untreated, it can eventually lead to blindness. Luckily, cataract surgery, where the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear lens, is an extremely safe and effective treatment option. 

Blepharoptosis

Blepharoptosis or ptosis is a drooping of the upper eyelid that may affect one or both eyes. The eyelid may droop only slightly or may droop enough to cover the pupil and block vision. It occurs when there is a weakness of the eye’s levator muscle that lifts the eyelid. This condition is usually caused by aging, eye surgery, or disease affecting the muscle or its nerve. Fortunately, blepharoptosis can be corrected with surgery.

Vitreous detachment

This occurs when the gel-like vitreous fluid inside the eye begins to liquefy and pull away from the retina, causing “spots and floaters” and, sometimes, flashes of light. This occurrence is usually harmless, but floaters and flashes of light can also signal the beginning of a detached retina — a serious problem that can cause blindness, and requires immediate treatment. If you experience sudden or worsening flashes and increased floaters, see Dr. Moshe Roth immediately to determine the cause.

Other Age-Related Changes

In addition to the above eye conditions and diseases, the structure of our eyes and vision change as we get older. 

Presbyopia

Why do people in their 40s and 50s have more difficulty focusing on near objects like books and phone screens? The lens inside the eye begins to lose its ability to change shape and bring near objects into focus, a process is called presbyopia. Over time, presbyopia, also known as age-related farsightedness, will become more pronounced and you will eventually need reading glasses to see clearly. You may need multiple prescriptions – one prescription to enable you to see up close, one for intermediate distance, and one for distance vision. In that case, people often get bifocals, multifocals or PALs, and they can be combined with contact lenses as well.

Reduced pupil size

As we age, our reaction to light and the muscles that control our pupil size lose some strength. This causes the pupil to become smaller and less responsive to changes in ambient lighting. The result? It becomes harder to clearly see objects, such as a menu, in a low-light setting like a restaurant.  

Dry eye

Our tear glands produce fewer tears and the tears they produce have less moisturizing oils. Your eye doctor can determine whether your dry eye is age-related or due to another condition, and will recommend the right over-the-counter or prescription eye drops, or other effective and lasting treatments, to alleviate the dryness and restore comfort.

Loss of peripheral vision

Aging causes a 1-3 degree loss of peripheral vision per decade of life. In fact, one may reach a peripheral visual field loss of 20-30 degrees by the time they reach their 70s and 80s. While peripheral vision loss is a normal part of aging, it can also indicate the presence of a serious eye disease, like glaucoma. The best way to ascertain the cause is by getting an eye exam. 

Decreased color vision

The cells in the retina responsible for normal color vision tend to decline as we age, causing colors to become less bright and the contrast between different colors to be less noticeable. Though a normal part of aging, faded colors can at times signal a more serious ocular problem. 

Beyond the normal changes that come with age, the risk of developing a serious eye disease, such as age related macular degeneration and glaucoma, increases. Routine eye exams are essential to keeping your eyes healthy. Your eye doctor can determine whether your symptoms are caused by an eye problem or are a normal byproduct of aging. 

If you or a loved one suffers from impaired vision, we can help. To find out more and to schedule your annual eye doctor’s appointment, contact Family Eye Care in Old Bridge today. 

Cataract Awareness Month

June is Cataract Awareness Month. During this important time, people living with cataracts (and their loved ones) are encouraged to talk about their personal experiences by giving each other helpful information and sharing their knowledge and advice. Use the hashtag #CataractAwarenessMonth on your social media channels to encourage and support others.

Did you know that over 24 million Americans have cataracts? More than 3.5 million Canadians are blind from cataracts, making it one of the most common – and serious – eye conditions today. Dr. Moshe Roth treats cataract patients from all over Old Bridge, New Jersey with the newest and most effective methods of eye care.

With millions of people living with the condition, it’s now more important than ever to bring awareness to this serious condition.

What Are Cataracts?

So what exactly are cataracts?

The lens of the eye is normally clear, which allows you to see things clearly and in sharp detail. Over time, the lens can become cloudy, causing blurry vision. It’s as if you’re looking through a dirty window and can’t really see what’s outside. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract, and it can affect one or both of your eyes.

What Causes Cataracts?

Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. The lens of your eye contains water and proteins. As you age, these proteins can clump together, and when that happens, the normally clear lens becomes cloudy.

Did you know that certain types of major eye surgeries and infections can trigger cataracts? Other issues that can lead to cataracts include congenital birth defects, eye injury, diseases, and even various kinds of medications. If you’re already developing cataracts, be careful when going outside. UV rays from the sun can make cataracts develop faster.

How Can I Lower My Risk of Cataracts?

Certain risk factors increase your chance of developing cataracts. These typically include:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family and medical history
  • Medications
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • UV ray exposure

To lower your risk, consider reducing your alcohol intake, quit smoking, start an exercise program, eat foods rich in vitamin A and C, and wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses.

Common Symptoms of Cataracts

If you have cataracts, you may experience some common symptoms like:

  • Blurry vision
  • Colors that used to be bright now appear dim
  • Double vision
  • Glare from natural sunlight or from artificial light, like light bulbs and lamps
  • Halos around lights
  • Night vision problems
  • Sensitivity to light

If you or a family member notice any of these signs, talk to Dr. Moshe Roth right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster we can help you get back to clear vision.

Coping With Cataracts

If you’re experiencing vision problems from cataracts, there is hope. If you have a mild case, a combination of a different eyeglass prescription and better lighting in your home, office, or other environment can improve your vision. In more advanced cases, your optometrist will likely recommend cataract surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear one.

Do I Need Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures today. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 2 million people undergo the procedure each year.

During the procedure, the doctor will gently remove the cataract from the eye and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (known as an IOL). Because it’s a common procedure, cataract surgery is usually performed in an outpatient clinic or in your eye doctor’s office. There is no need to stay in a hospital and you can usually resume your normal activities in just a few days.

If you’ve exhausted every other solution and still suffer from blurry vision from cataracts, surgery may be an option. Schedule a consultation online or call 732-679-2020 to book an eye doctor’s appointment at Family Eye Care and together, we’ll determine if cataract surgery is right for you. 

During this Cataract Awareness Month, share your stories and successes, and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.