2YH: January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

 Patient Walker Kaso getting a routine eye exam.
Patient Walker Kaso getting a routine eye exam. (KTUU)
Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 9:30 AM AKST
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Downstairs at Ophthalmic Associates in Anchorage, Dr. Kelly Lorenz examines her patient, Walter Kaso's eyes.

"Just look right towards my ear. Eyes wide open," she said.

Dr. Lorenz is an Ophthalmologist and Glaucoma Specialist. It's her job to educate patients on what glaucoma is and does.

"Most people think when they're diagnosed with glaucoma that they're going blind, but indeed that's not the case," said Dr. Lorenz.

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that affect the optic nerve.

"That's the nerve that connects the eye to the brain and that can cause a slow progressive deterioration of the optic nerve,which in turn may lead to vision loss which often starts out in the periphery of the vision but not always," added Dr. Lorenz.

Glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages. In fact, half the people with it, don't even know they have it.

"I never really felt like I had you know any problems like pressure this or that, but obviously did," said Kaso.

Which is why Dr. Lorenz recommends getting yearly eye exams and not putting it off.

"If it's not diagnosed or not treated correctly that vision loss can encroach into the center and cause blindness," she said.

And while the damage is permanent, it can be treated. One way is using eye drops to relieve the pressure. There's also the option of a laser procedure.

"I believe one eye is a little I've lost a little bit but by keeping the pressure down will keep it you know better," said Kaso.

"Most people that have glaucoma maintain good vision for the rest of their lives as long as it's monitored closely and treated correctly," said Dr. Lorenz.

As a Glaucoma Specialist, Dr. Lorenz said she gets a lot of questions about marijuana use and glaucoma.

"The studies with today's marijuana is quite limited and frankly a lot of our current medications and eye drops work much better than marijuana has," she said.

For a disease with little to no warning signs, the earlier it's caught, the better.

Dr. Lorenz also added that in rare cases you can experience things like pain, red eye, vision loss and vomiting, but again, most people have no symptoms and the only sure way to diagnose glaucoma is with a complete eye exam.

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