What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in America. It is abnormally high fluid pressure within the eye. Over time, the pressure can build and damage the optic nerve and the blood vessels that nourish the retina. As the fibers that make up the optic nerve are damaged, the quality and amount of information transmitted to the brain decreases and a loss of vision occurs. Damage can occur so slowly that the person is not aware of the gradual vision loss. Vision usually becomes more and more impaired until irreversible blindness sets in. Eye examinations as well as glaucoma treatments are performed by our doctor for patients in our region, to treat and/or avoid this condition.
Who gets glaucoma?
According to the National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, one in 50 Americans over the age of 35 and three out of every 100 over the age of 65 have glaucoma. Frequently, glaucoma occurs in patients over the age of 40. There does seem to be a hereditary tendency for the development of the disease in some families, especially African-Americans.
People at a higher risk include those with diabetes or those who have relatives with glaucoma. Those with a family history of glaucoma should have their eyes checked regularly by an ophthalmologist.
Types of glaucoma
The symptoms of glaucoma can vary depending on the type.
Primary open-angle glaucoma usually develops slowly and painlessly without early warning signs. The first indication may occur after some vision has already been lost.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma results from a sudden blockage of the drainage channels in your eye. This results in increased pressure followed by blurred vision, the appearance of colored rings around lights, and pain or redness in the eyes.
Secondary glaucoma is caused by another condition, such as an infection, tumor, eye surgery, or cataracts in their advanced stages.
Congenital glaucoma which is present at birth, is rare. Symptoms may include enlargement of the eyes, tearing, and unusual sensitivity to light.
What causes glaucoma?
We don’t know the exact cause of glaucoma. Generally, it occurs when the normal drainage passages that allow fluid within your eyes to drain out become clogged or blocked. This results in fluid building up within the eye which increases the pressure on the optic nerve and retina. An infection, injury or tumor in or near the eye may also cause the intraocular pressure to rise.
Can glaucoma be prevented?
No, but our physician performs early detection examinations and can treat glaucoma to reduce the chances of damage to the eye. The loss of sight caused by glaucoma is treated by controlling the intraocular pressure.
Can glaucoma be cured?
There is no known cure for glaucoma. In most cases, it can usually be controlled with one of four treatments: medications, laser surgery, conventional surgery, or drainage implants.
Medication in the form of eyedrops or tablets taken in precise amounts, on a regular schedule, is usually the first treatment option. Lasers have been used to treat glaucoma since 1979. Laser surgery for glaucoma only requires eyedrops for anesthesia and takes about 15 minutes. When medications and lasers fail to control rising intraocular pressures, conventional surgery using powerful microscopes and tiny instruments to open the drainage channels may be an option. Drainage implants offer a second surgical option. These tiny pressure sensitive unidirectional valves open and close with the changing intraocular pressure.
Will glaucoma treatment restore vision?
Unfortunately, when glaucoma causes vision loss it is usually permanent and cannot be restored. That is why regular preventive eye examinations by your ophthalmologist are so important.
Don’t let glaucoma sneak up on you!
Have your intraocular pressure checked every year.