Almost everyone experiences a decline in vision as they get older. For some people, however, this vision loss can be attributed to more than the body's natural aging process: it could be the result of the eye disease called glaucoma.
To help area residents learn more about this eye condition, which is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, ophthalmologist Brett J. Karlik, M.D., a new associate at the Elk County Eye Clinic, will hold a free educational program on glaucoma therapy for the public at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 22 at the Elk Regional Ambulatory Surgery Center in St. Marys. Karlik will provide an overview of glaucoma, explain more about the signs and symptoms of the disease and discuss available treatment options.
Karlik said that in most cases, glaucoma causes a gradual loss of peripheral vision due to increased pressure in the normal fluid present in the eye. HIgher-than-normal pressure can damage the optic nerve, which is the pathway that carries visual information to the brain to be processed.
"Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain," Karlik said. "Think of it as the plug or the cable - if the cable becomes damaged, then you can't get the information to the brain and the patient cannot see well."
He noted the stealthiness of the disease, which is generally painless and presents no symptoms. Without regular eye exams, it can go undetected until significant vision loss has already occurred.
"The reason the symptoms go unnoticed for years is because it affects the peripheral vision. And people don't notice that vision being lost, at least not initially. They don't tend to notice it for years," Karlik said.
Following the discussion, a social with refreshments and a tour of the surgery center will be held. Anyone interested in attending should RSVP by calling 814-788-8532.