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Glaucoma Awareness Month at Gunnison Valley Health

Gunnison Valley Health recognizes that January is Glaucoma Awareness Month. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that, if left untreated, can cause blindness. In fact, the Glaucoma Research Foundation says it is the “second leading cause of blindness.” Experts estimate that over three million Americans have glaucoma, yet only half are diagnosed.

Although the stats and figures on glaucoma are concerning, there is good news: glaucoma can easily be detected through a screening with an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who can diagnose, treat and perform surgical procedures on a range of eye related conditions.

What is Glaucoma?

There are several types of glaucoma, but the two most common are open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma. Both types result in an increase in eye pressure and loss of vison, but there are several key distinctions.

Open-Angle Glaucoma

Angle-Closure Glaucoma

  • Much less common than open-angle yet second most common
  • Develops very quickly
  • Easily noticeable symptoms

In addition to these two types, there are other, less common forms of glaucoma. However, with open-angle glaucoma being the most common in more than 9 out of 10 cases, it will be the focus of the remainder of this article.

Unfortunately, the slow development of open-angle glaucoma means there are no early warning signs or symptoms to alert individuals with the disease. Glaucoma starts by eliminating peripheral vision and slowly affects the rest of one’s eyesight. By the time an individual notices loss of vision, it is often late in the disease. It is also important to note the any damage caused by glaucoma is permanent.

Risk Factors for Glaucoma

While glaucoma can affect anyone, certain factors increase the risk. First, everyone 60 or older should visit an ophthalmologist for an annual medical eye exam. As you grow older, the risk of glaucoma increases. Additionally, individuals described by any of the below are at higher risk and should visit an ophthalmologist for a glaucoma screening each year from the age of 40 and older.

  • A family history of glaucoma (if your parents or siblings have glaucoma)
  • African American or Hispanic/Latinx genealogy
  • Diabetic, cardiovascular or autoimmune disease

Why Visit an Ophthalmologist?

Although there is no known cure for glaucoma, it can easily be detected in a medical eye exam with an ophthalmologist. If detected, an ophthalmologist can prescribe preventative treatments to stop the disease from causing further damage.

About a Medical Eye Exam

Although an optometrist or optician has tools to do a simple eye check when you visit for a vision test, an ophthalmologist can perform a comprehensive medical eye exam which is more accurate. By dilating the eye, a board-certified ophthalmologist can examine the optic nerve from every angle. This allows more thorough examination when compared to the flat images that an optometrist uses. Dr. Leslie Moskowitz-Elfenbein, M.D., Ophthalmologist at Gunnison Valley Health, said, “Rather than a camera taking a picture, we look at the back of the eye for the complete 360-degree exam.”

In addition to screening for glaucoma, an ophthalmologist can check for a variety of other health concerns in a complete medical eye exam. “You can tell so many things about the health of a person from a complete eye exam,” said Dr. Moskowitz-Elfenbein. A medical eye exam can save your eyesight – and life – by detecting brain tumors, cataracts, diabetes and other health conditions.

Ophthalmology at Gunnison Valley Health

Dr. Moskowitz-Elfenbein is Gunnison Valley Health’s Board Certified General Ophthalmologist. She has over 20 years of experience treating patients for a variety of conditions. In addition to the medical diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, her clinical interests include anterior segment, medical retina and ophthalmic lasers. Dr. Moskowitz-Elfenbein also performed cataract surgery for over 15 years, but currently practices medical Ophthalmology. She has lived in Gunnison for five years and is passionate about keeping our community healthy.

Click here to learn more about Gunnison Valley Health Ophthalmology or call (970) 642-4816 to make an appointment with Dr. Moskowitz-Elfenbein for a complete eye medical exam.