Often called “the silent thief of sight” Glaucoma affects three million Americans today and is the second leading cause of blindness. With no early symptoms or warning signs, it is imperative for people 40 years and older to have yearly examinations. Although there is no cure, Glaucoma can be controlled and vision can be preserved if detected and monitored early on.
In most cases, glaucoma is associated with higher-than-normal pressure inside the eye — a condition called Ocular Hypertension. But it also can occur when Intraocular Pressure (IOP) is normal. If untreated or uncontrolled, glaucoma first causes peripheral vision loss and eventually can lead to blindness.
There are several different types of glaucoma the two most common types being chronic open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma.
Risk Factors For Chronic Open-Angle Glaucoma Include:
- Advanced age.
- Family history of the disease.
- Higher-than-normal intraocular pressure.
- Certain ethnic races, particularly those of African descent.
- Certain diseases or conditions, especially diabetes, farsightedness or nearsightedness, or previous eye trauma or surgery.
Closed-angle glaucoma is less prevalent, but is considered a real eye emergency. This type of glaucoma occurs when a patient’s pupil moves or dilates and actually blocks off the drainage angles in the eye. This is considered a medical emergency in which an ophthalmologist should be contacted immediately to avoid any loss of vision.
Symptoms of Closed-Angle Glaucoma Include:
- Severe eye pain.
- Blurred vision.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Rainbow halos around lights.
Diagnosis Of Glaucoma
The diagnosis of glaucoma is made after a comprehensive medical examination of the eye and a review of the patient’s medical history. Tests are conducted to confirm the diagnosis. Testing may include some of the following:
- Dilated eye examination
- Visual field test (perimetry)
- Retinal evaluation
- Visual acuity test
- Visual evoked potential (VEP)
- Pattern Electroretinogram (PERG)
Once glaucoma has been diagnosed, treatment should begin as soon as possible to help minimize the risk of permanent vision loss.
Types Of Glaucoma
There are several types of glaucoma. The two major types are primary open-angle glaucoma, in which fluid drains too slowly from the drainage channels (trabecula) of the eye, and angle-closure (narrow-angle) glaucoma, which occurs when the trabecula become blocked. Approximately 95 percent of glaucoma patients suffer from primary open-angle glaucoma. Other types of glaucoma, which occur much more rarely, include:
- Low Tension Glaucoma
- Congenital Glaucoma
- Secondary Glaucoma
- Pigmentary Glaucoma
- Pseudoexfoliation Glaucoma
Treatment Of Glaucoma
There is no cure for glaucoma, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing further damage. Some of the treatment methods for glaucoma are as follows:
Eye drops or oral medication may be used to either reduce fluid production in the front of the eye or to help drain excess fluid. Side effects of the medication may result in redness, stinging, irritation or blurred vision. Regular use of the medication is needed to keep the eye pressure under control.
Trabeculoplasty, iridotomy or cyclophotocoagulation are laser procedures that aim to increase the outflow of fluid from the eye or eliminate fluid blockages.
A trabeculectomy may be used to create a new channel to drain fluid from the eye and reduce the pressure that causes glaucoma. Surgery is performed only after medication and laser procedures have been unsuccessful.
While patients with early stage glaucoma may not experience any symptoms, prompt treatment is required to preserve their vision. If you are experiencing any symptoms of Glaucoma, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a consultation.