"The Heart of the Matter"

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Week: 490.5 Guest: Sheri Rowen, M.D., F.A.C.S. Topic: Glaucoma Host: Richard Roeder Producer: Ed Graham

NEMA: This is a discussion of the eye disorder glaucoma. My guest is Opthamologist Dr. Sheri Rowen from the Katzen Eye Group in Baltimore, Maryland.

NEMA: Dr. Rowen, what is glaucoma?

Rowen: Glaucoma is a condition where the eye pressure in the eye is too high for the eye to handle and it causes damage to the nerve of the eye that sees.

NEMA: Is the cause of glaucoma understood or known?

Rowen: There are multiple causes of glaucoma. There is not just one type of glaucoma. There are books written with many many different types and causes. A lot of them are anatomical. A lot of them are the fact that the filtration ability to remove fluid from the eye is damaged or diseased and the eye cannot remove the fluid that is naturally produced in it. The actual reason why certain people get it is not necessarily known. We do know that in the African-American population, it is definitely more prevalent and there's a lot of genetics involved in most glaucoma.

NEMA: How is glaucoma treated?

Rowen: In the beginning, it's treated with drops and there are studies going on now, multi-center studies, where they're deciding whether drops or surgery in the beginning is the right way to go but if you go into most people's private practice, they'll start you on drops to try to control the pressure. Drops are first and there are lots of different drops. You keep adding them on and adding them on until - then there's some pills and if those don't work then you go to a laser and if that doesn't work, then you go to surgery.

NEMA: Is glaucoma ever completely cured or is it basically something a person has to recognize as a chronic condition?

Rowen: Basically it's a chronic condition. There are a couple of instances where if it's the anatomical type where we call it narrow-angle glaucoma where there's anatomically not a good space for the fluid outflow, we can fix that with a laser. Otherwise it is basically a chronic condition.

NEMA: Is glaucoma a disorder that is considerably more manageable when it is discovered very early in it's development?

Rowen: I would say so. If we can catch it early before there's a lot of nerve damage, we can keep people on drops and hold them from having the damage to the nerve. Once the nerve starts to be damaged, it can go at a faster rate and it is harder to control it at that point.

NEMA: How complex and time consuming for people who want to have this checked out is the test for glaucoma?

Rowen: Very very simple. Not complex and not time consuming whatsoever.

NEMA: So you recommend this to anyone listening, especially members of the African-American community. Is there a particular age when they should start checking for glaucoma?

Rowen: I would say that everybody should be checked at least once by the age of 30. If they have it in their family, they should be checked earlier. If they don't have a history in their family, they should at least have a baseline exam at 30 and then after that the doctor will tell them how often they need to come in.


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Last modified: December 02, 2021