A private eye clinic in Costa Rica hasannounced it can diagnose the onset ofglaucoma as many as five years before ithas wreaked havoc beyond repair on theeye.The Visualiza Clínica Oftalmológicahas added an Optical CoherenceTomography (OCT) machine to its collectionof diagnostic equipment. It’s the onlyone of its kind in Costa Rica and one ofonly a handful in Central America,according to the clinic.The OCT machine scans the opticnerve and assesses the damage done byglaucoma, a condition that damages theoptic nerve. The machine counts the eye’sequivalent of fiber optic wires, calledaxons, tallying those destroyed by the diseaseand those still in service.“Fifty percent of those with glaucomadon’t know they have it,” said Dr. ZlatkoPiskulich, an ophthalmologist and retinaand vitreous specialist at the clinic.“Often when you find out you have it,it’s too late because by then glaucomacould have killed off half” of the axons,he said.The OCT is preventive medicine, hesaid. He recommends everyone age 45and older have yearly check-ups to headoff problems.Once diagnosed, depending on thecase and the type of glaucoma – thedrawn-out chronic variety or the less commonacute version that can damage visionin a matter of weeks – it is treated withmedicated eye drops or surgery.Glaucoma afflicts about 2% of CostaRicans, Piskulich said, and is the primarycause of blindness in the world.Not limited to glaucoma, the OCT candiagnosis other conditions, including diabeticmacular edema, a problem nearlyevery diabetic will confront within 14years of diagnosis of the disease, accordingto Piskulich.The OCT makes a cross-sectionalimage of the eye’s retina, throwing a laseragainst it and recording the images as thelight bounces back. Before, views of suchcross sections were possible only oncadavers with knives and microscopeslides, Piskulich said. Now, the OCTdetects not only problems without evertouching the eye, it also determines theirseverity and helps the doctor decide howto treat them.The machine also diagnoses retinaldetachment, central retinal vein occlusion,epiretinal membranes, age-related maculardegeneration, retinitis pigmentosa andothers.Visualiza Clinica Oftalmológica islocated in Mediplaza in Escazú, west ofSan José. For more information in Englishor Spanish, call 201-7201 ext. 111.