Trenton Times Story by Fay Reiter

Few things are more important than our sight. Without it, we would miss our baby's first smile, the glow of a full moon or a radiant purple sunset. We would be bereft of the mystery of the Mona Lisa, a perfectly pitched baseball game or the emotions expressed on someone's face. We also would not be able to drive a car, read instructions or locate a lost object.

But, like many things, we tend to take our sight for granted. Fortunately, this was not the case for Robert Greco, a Georgetown resident who discovered through a routine eye exam that he had glaucoma. His diligence about scheduling annual eye exams proved fortuitous about five years ago when his optometrist, Dr. Ivan Lee, discovered elevated intraocular pressure in his eyes and diagnosed glaucoma.

Greco, who works as a clinical pharmacist and is now 41, knew he was at risk. "My father had severe glaucoma and lost vision because of it," he says. "I wanted to make sure that this did not happen to me." Since his glaucoma was diagnosed, Greco has been using eye drops daily and his pressure is now normal. As long as he continues to monitor his condition and use his medication, the glaucoma is not expected to affect his vision.

"Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged by excessive fluid production or the improper functioning of the drainage system within the eye," says Lee, an optometrist with Eye Care Professionals in Hamilton Square. "It is similar to a clogged drain."Although there are many different forms of glaucoma, the most typical is primary open angle glaucoma. "What is so scary about this disease is that there are no symptoms until it affects your peripheral (side) vision," says Lee. "And once you've lost vision to glaucoma, it cannot be restored."

If glaucoma remains untreated, people may miss objects at their sides, things they should be able to see out of the corners of their eyes. Eventually, people with glaucoma lose their peripheral vision and they see as if they were looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead vision may decrease until no vision remains. The disease, in most cases, develops gradually and painlessly, according to Lee.

Glaucoma can affect one or both eyes, and not everyone with elevated pressure in the eyes has the disease. Glaucoma can only be detected through an annual comprehensive eye exam that includes a test of distance vision, a tonometry test to measure eye pressure, a test that measures peripheral vision and a dilated-eye exam in which drops are applied to widen the pupils so the retina and optic nerve can be examined. Other new high-tech imaging tests may also be done to scan the optic nerve and nerve fiber layer if necessary. Once detected, glaucoma can be managed, but not cured. Management can be achieved via eye drops, laser surgery or filtering surgery.

Greco is feeling pretty good these days and couldn't be happier with his outcome. "I use the drops daily," he says. "It is just like brushing my teeth. I have no damage to my eyes and I look at it as just like taking blood- pressure medicine." Greco watched his father experience limited sight. "It really affected my dad; he couldn't drive, and during his old age it was so difficult for him. What I am experiencing is no big deal. What is a big deal is if it wasn't being treated and I lost sight."

The following should help prevent the development of glaucoma and promote eye health:

**Know who may be at risk: People over 45, African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, those with a family history of glaucoma, nearsighted or farsighted individuals, and those with diabetes, hypertension, migraine headaches or poor circulation.

**Have an annual eye exam performed by an eye-care professional. 

**If you have glaucoma, be diligent about using your medication and ask your eye-care professional about low-vision services and devices that may help you make the most of your remaining vision. 

**Practice a healthy lifestyle by maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising and eating healthfully to prevent problems that can increase your risk for the disease. 

**Having an annual eye exam is a great way to welcome in the New Year.