Canton-Potsdam Hospital recommending Glaucoma testing for those over age 60, African-Americans, those with family history
Saturday, January 12, 2013 - 4:42 pm

POTSDAM -- Canton-Potsdam Hospital is recommending Glaucoma testing for at-risk groups as part of Glaucoma Awareness Month.

According to the New York State Department of Health, more than two million adults in the United States have glaucoma, a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and destroy eyesight. Unfortunately, only half of those with glaucoma are even aware that they have it.

Eye examinations for people at risk for glaucoma are the key to treating it and preventing vision loss.

“People at risk are often unaware they have glaucoma because the pressure that causes damage to the optic nerve generally causes no symptoms,” said Kris A. VanWagner, DO, Canton-Potsdam Hospital ophthalmologist. “Everyone over the age of 60 and people with a family history of the disease should get tested for it,” said Dr. VanWagner. “The risk is higher for people of African American descent, and testing should start at age 40,” he added.

The test involves using eye drops that cause the pupils to widen (dilate) so the eye-care professional can see the inside of the eyes for changes to the optic nerve. Pressure in the eye is also checked. Both procedures are painless. Some changes can be very subtle and difficult to detect, according to Dr. VanWagner.

“An ophthalmologist is able to assess these changes in relation to the patient’s medical history and status. Other diseases can influence what we see happening in the optic nerve region, so it’s important to take into account the patient’s other medical conditions, age, and lifestyle factors for a correct diagnosis.”

Treatment usually involves eye drops and may include surgery, if drug therapy is not effective and if appropriate for the patient, noted Dr. VanWagner. “Research has shown that treatment during the early stages of the disease can control it and prevent future vision loss or eventual blindness,” he said. “We encourage those at risk for glaucoma to get a comprehensive eye examination every one to two years,” he added.

Canton-Potsdam Hospital’s ophthalmologists Gary E. Torbey, DO, and Kris A. VanWagner, DO, maintain office practices in Massena, at Seaway Valley Eye Care, and in Potsdam, at CPH Eye Care Center respectively. For Dr. Torbey, patients may call 315-769-2484 and for Dr. VanWagner patients may call 315-274-9085.