Glaucoma is a classification of eye diseases that gradually steals the sight of those afflicted without warning or symptoms due to damage caused to the optic nerve. The nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million nerve fibers that are responsible for carrying the images we see to the brain.
Elevated eye pressure was once attributed as the main cause of damage to the optic nerve. Although eye pressure is definitely a risk factor, we now know that other factors are also involved because even people with “normal” IOP (intraocular pressure) can experience vision loss due to glaucoma.
What Are The Risk Factors For Glaucoma?
Glaucoma can occur in anyone at any age. However, it’s one of the leading causes of blindness in people over the age of 60. The chance of developing glaucoma increases if you are African-American or Hispanic; have a family member with glaucoma; are extremely nearsighted; over 35 years of age; have diabetes, hypertension, and/or any vascular diseases.
What Are The Different Types Of Glaucoma?
Common types of glaucoma include primary open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, secondary glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, and cataracts and glaucoma. The most common form of glaucoma is primary open-angle glaucoma, which affects about three million Americans. It occurs when the eye’s drainage canals become occluded over time. The IOP rises because the necessary amount of fluid is unable to drain from the eye. Most people have no symptoms or early warning signs. If open-angle glaucoma is not treated, it can cause gradual loss of vision. The condition develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable sight loss for many years. Luckily, this type of glaucoma usually responds well to medication, especially if caught early and treated promptly.
How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed And Monitored?
Tonometry – used to measure eye pressure. A technician will use a special device that measures the IOP.
Ophthalmoscopy – used to examine the interior of the eye, especially the optic nerve. The doctor will examine the inside of the eye through the pupil by using a magnifying lens to look at the shape and color of the optic nerve to determine if there are any issues.
Perimetry – a test in which the patient is asked to keep looking straight ahead and then indicate when a moving light passes their peripheral (or side) vision. This helps to draw a “map” of your vision.
Gonioscopy – a painless eye test that specifically checks for open or closed-angle glaucoma.
Nerve Fiber Layer Analyzer – uses a computerized machine to take pictures of the nerve fiber layer. This test helps diagnosis glaucoma and monitor treatment.
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
Medicines – Glaucoma is generally treated with eye drops and/or pills in some cases. To be most effective, glaucoma medications must be taken exactly as prescribed. Your doctor will discuss side effects when the medications are given.
Laser Surgery – Laser surgery is being more widely used as a first-line and adjunctive form of treatment. After the eye is numbed with drops, the laser beam is applied to the trabecular meshwork tissue. The procedure only takes a few minutes and helps improve the rate of drainage. If the laser surgery is successful, the need for additional eye drops or, possibly, even the need for current eye drops will be reduced. (show pic of SLT)
Filtration Surgery – This is generally performed when medications and laser treatments fail to control the eye pressure. During this procedure, a new drainage channel is formed to allow fluid to drain from the eye. Your ophthalmologist will thoroughly discuss all aspects of the surgery with you.
Is There A Cure For Glaucoma?
There is no cure currently for Glaucoma. It is a chronic disease that must be treated for life. However, there is much happening in research that raises hope that a cure may be realized in our lifetime.
Persons Over The Age Of 50 Should See An Eye Care Professional Every Year.
Our board-certified Optometrists and Ophthalmologists are standing by ready to offer personal care and state-of-the-art technology. Schedule your appointment today by calling (865) 584-0905.