What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a category of eye disorders often associated with a dangerous buildup of internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure or IOP), which can damage the eye's optic nerve – the structure that transmits visual information from the eye to the brain.

Glaucoma typically affects your peripheral vision first. This is why it is such a sneaky disease: You can lose a great deal of your vision from glaucoma before you are aware anything is happening. If uncontrolled or left untreated, glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness.

If you are concerned about glaucoma don't wait, contact an eye care professional near you today!

Glaucoma is currently the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, with an estimated 2.5 million Americans being affected by the disease. Due to the aging of the U.S. population, it’s expected that more than 3 million Americans will have glaucoma by the year 2020 (American Academy of Opthalmology1).

Glaucoma Symptoms

Glaucoma is an eye disease that’s very hard to detect until it can be too late to save your vision! The best way to protect yourself from the onset of glaucoma is to have a comprehensive eye exam every year.

While glaucoma symptoms vary, the two main symptoms include:

  • Tunnel vision
  • Slowly losing your peripheral vision

For many people, open-angle glaucoma occurs gradually and is almost unnoticeable until they get their eyes checked.

Closed-angle glaucoma occurs suddenly and can cause

  • Mild to severe eye pain
  • Red eyes
  • Halos around lights
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Changes in vision
  • Blurriness

Glaucoma Treatment

When it comes to glaucoma treatment, open-angle glaucoma cannot be cured, but the pressure build up can be lessened so as to prevent further damage to the eyes.

Glaucoma treatment includes:

  • A drainage implant in the eye that creates and opening for the fluid to drain
  • Surgery to remove a small piece of eye tissue that allows fluid to drain (trabeculectomy)
  • Prescription pills
  • Eye drops
  • Laser surgery

If you do experience any of these glaucoma symptoms be sure to see an eye doctor to undergo treatment and prevent any further damage. Most importantly, if you experience closed-angle glaucoma symptoms, this requires emergency medical attention where an eye doctor will usually perform laser surgery to repair what caused the glaucoma, preventing pressure from building up again.

Diagnosis, Screening and Tests for Glaucoma

During annual eye exams, a tonometer is used to measure your intraocular pressure (IOP). Your eye typically is numbed with eye drops, and a small probe gently rests against your eye's surface. Other tonometers direct a puff of air onto your eye's surface to indirectly measure IOP.

An abnormally high IOP reading indicates a problem with the amount of fluid inside the eye. Either the eye is producing too much fluid, or it's not draining properly.

Another method for detecting or monitoring glaucoma is the use of instruments to create images of the eye's optic nerve and then repeating this imaging over time to see if changes to the optic nerve are taking place, which might indicate progressive glaucoma damage. Instruments used for this purpose include scanning laser polarimetry (SLP), optical coherence tomography (OCT), and confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscopy.

Visual field testing is another way to monitor whether blind spots are developing in your field of vision from glaucoma damage to the optic nerve. Visual field testing involves staring straight ahead into a machine and clicking a button when you notice a blinking light in your peripheral vision. The visual field test may be repeated at regular intervals so your eye doctor can determine if there is progressive vision loss.

Instruments such as an ophthalmoscope also may be used to help your eye doctor view internal eye structures, to make sure nothing unusual interferes with the outflow and drainage of eye fluids. Ultrasound biomicroscopy also may be used to evaluate how well fluids flow through the eye's internal structures. Gonioscopy is the use of special lenses that allow your eye doctor to visually inspect internal eye structures that control fluid drainage.

Health Tips

Glaucoma is an eye disease that’s very hard to detect until it can be too late to save your vision! The best way to protect yourself from the onset of glaucoma is to have a comprehensive eye exam every year.

Prevention is the best defense!

Schedule an eye exam today!