It is called a "silent thief" because a person will usually not know they have glaucoma until significant, irreversible damage has occurred. In a way, it is similar to diabetes and high blood pressure. All these diseases are usually unknown to the patient, but each causes significant damage to the human body.
Glaucoma causes blindness by slowly destroying neurons (brain cells) that form the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the major nerve that transmits light signals to the brain. When the optic nerve becomes damaged, less light signals are transmitted to the brain. Eventually, glaucoma causes so much damage that almost no light signals are transmitted to the brain. Blindness is the result. Once damage has occurred to the optic nerve, it is irreversible. Damage is permanent, and the vision that has been lost can never be restored.
One of the saddest things that I have seen too many times is a glaucoma patient who comes to my office seeking help after being either undiagnosed or improperly treated. They come in having lost more than 90% of their vision and ask if anything can be done. I sadly tell these patients if they had come to me earlier, we could have done something. What I can do is significantly reduce future damage from occurring to the optic nerve. Unfortunately, I cannot restore a patient's vision. Once that optic nerve is damaged from glaucoma, there is no way to reverse the damage.
That is why it is so important to both be screened for glaucoma and, if you are diagnosed with glaucoma, to be properly treated. Here at the Glaucoma Center of Hawaii, we have advanced diagnostic equipment for the early detection of glaucoma.
Some patients benefit by the use of modern lasers. SLT (selective laser trabeculoplasty) has only been introduced for general use within the past few years. It has been found to be highly effective in most glaucoma patients. Here at the Glaucoma Center of Hawaii, we utilize the SLT laser for the treatment of glaucoma. If glaucoma surgery is needed, there are novel surgical techniques that are better for the patient. An example of this is the Express Shunt. Dr. Kim was the first eye surgeon in Hawaii to use the Express Shunt.