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Glaucoma: The silent thief of sight
GLAUCOMA: It has no symptoms in its early stage. It's often called the silent thief of sight, because you lose your peripheral vision fist. Half the people with it don't know they have it. - photo by Erin Goff
The buzzer goes off and the referee blows his whistle, signaling the start to a high school basketball game.

In the stands, 46-year-old Tricia Kump is there to support her son, Jaren Kump, No. 34 playing for Herriman.

"Jaren plays football and basketball," Tricia Kump said. "He was on Jr. Jazz when he was a little boy and Little League Football. It's always fun to go watch him play."

In fact, Jaren Kump received a scholarship and committed to play football for Brigham Young University. But these days Tricia Kump is having trouble watching her son. She only has one good eye. "Watching my son play sports, sometimes it's a challenge because I'm watching him down on the field or the court, and it's not as easy as it used to be."

Just three months ago doctors diagnosed Tricia Kump with a rare form of glaucoma in her left eye. It's called iridocorneal endothelial syndrome, or ICE for short. In this condition the cells on the back surface of the cornea spread over the eye's drainage tissue and across the iris.

Ophthalmologist Lyndon Tyler said, "So there's a risk that the pressure in the eye could go high and then you develop damage to the optic nerve.

Tricia Kump said it's like having half a dirty windshield. She noticed a problem years ago but, "I just blew it off as, 'Oh they could just do surgery and take care of it. It won't be a problem.' Then to find out it's much worse than I thought," said Kump.

In fact, if you look right into her right eye you can see what she is up against. "My pupil used to be in the normal spot. It's not formed properly anymore," she said. She has not lost her vision, but it is blurry in her one eye.

Regular and extensive check-ups are the key to diagnosing glaucoma before you lose vision. "The optic nerve is nerve, nerve tissue, and there aren't really a lot of proven ways to bring back nerve tissue once it's gone," Tyler said.

The only way to really test for glaucoma is to dilate the eyes and look at the optic nerve. An ophthalmologist may also do a visual field test. "If you just screened people for high eye pressure you would miss a significant amount of glaucoma," Tyler said. "It's not just based on that eye pressure."

If doctors catch glaucoma early, Dr. Tyler said they can slow down the progression of the disease and loss of peripheral vision with appropriate management.

Because of issues associated with her specific syndrome, many standard treatments are ineffective. She is now very grateful for her right eye. "It's important! People don't realize it, that you don't know if you could lose it one day. I never thought it would be me," Tricia Kump said. "I've always had 20/20 vision."
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