National Glaucoma Awareness Month

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We're rounding out January, which is National Glaucoma Awareness Month.  Glaucoma is a condition that causes nerve damage in the eye, often associated with a buildup of pressure around the eye.

73-year-old Elaine Schuh says she's had good eyesight her whole life, and didn't see glaucoma coming.

"I didn't feel it.  But (the pressure) has to be at a certain level.  Eventually you could go blind if you can't keep the pressure down," Elaine told us.

We visited her home in Avoca to talk about what happens when doctors noticed there was a lot of pressure around the nerves that connect her eye to her brain, a condition called glaucoma.

Dr. Tatiana Franco calls it a "silent enemy."

Dr. Franco is an ophthalmologist at Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center near Wilkes-Barre.  She points out, there really is no way to tell if you have glaucoma unless you're specifically tested for it.     You won't notice symptoms or changes in vision until the disease has progressed.

"You'll start noticing you'll bump into things, or your vision becomes dim when you go from light to dark," said Dr. Franco.

She says glaucoma is more common in African Americans and in people who have a family history of the condition.  Contrary to popular belief, she says it affects both older and younger patients.

"You can't really predict who will lose their sight and who won't.  But it's still a leading cause of blindness worldwide," noted Dr. Franco.

Treating glaucoma can come in many forms: drops, laser procedures, or in some cases, surgery.  Elaine needed surgery, tiny tubes inserted into her eyes to allow the fluid to properly drain.  She can see just fine, but will need to be regularly checked.

"I have no pain, nothing even after surgery.  The worst part is all of the drops I have to use," said Elaine.

Dr. Franco says there are several different types of surgeries done on glaucoma patients, should they need it.  As always if you have questions you're urged to ask your own doctor.