Glaucoma: What You Need to Know
Glaucoma is a group of diseases characterized by increasing damage to the optic nerve that connects the eyeball to the brain. This damage can lead to a loss of vision and blindness. With early detection and treatment, this damage can be lessened or even prevented. More severe kinds of glaucoma, such as angle-closure glaucoma can cause sudden symptoms that need to be treated immediately. If you are experiencing intense pain, red eye, blurry vision, and upset stomach (severe nausea) seek help immediately.
What Is Glaucoma?
Not every individual with increased eye pressure will develop glaucoma. Eye pressure is individual with some people tolerating more eye pressure than others. The development of glaucoma depends on how much pressure an individual’s optic nerve can tolerate before suffering any damage. For this reason, a comprehensive dilated exam is the most effective way for your eye care professional to determine what level of eye pressure is reasonable for you.
What Are the Symptoms, Causes & Risk Factors of Glaucoma?
Scientists aren’t sure what causes the most common types of glaucoma. The symptoms of glaucoma may not be noticeable at first as the onset of the condition can be very slow. Open-angle glaucoma may be symptom-less in the beginning, causing no pain and not disrupting the vision. Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes.
Glaucoma can happen to anyone, however, you may be at higher risk of getting glaucoma if you are:
- All individuals over age 60, especially Hispanic/Latinos over age 60
- African American over age 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
Without treatment, individuals with glaucoma may slowly lose their peripheral vision. Untreated, sufferers of glaucoma may experience vision that is akin to looking through a tunnel. Eventually, central vision will decrease until no vision remains.
What to Expect from Diagnosis and Screening for Glaucoma
Glaucoma should be detected and diagnosed through a comprehensive exam from your eye care professional. A comprehensive dilated eye exam can uncover risk factors like high eye pressure, corneal thinness, and atypical optic nerve anatomy.
This exam includes:
- Visual field test to measure peripheral vision loss
- Dilated eye exam to examine the retina and optic nerve for any damage.
- Tonometry to measure the pressure inside the eye by using a tonometer
- Pachymetry measures the thickness of the cornea
Your eye care professional will use eye drops for many of these exams. A dilated eye exam will use drops that widen or dilate your pupils. Tonometry and pachymetry use numbing drops for the procedures. In the case of dilation, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours after your exam.
What Are the Medications and Treatments for Glaucoma?
Treatment for glaucoma depends on the diagnosis. Early diagnosis is very important as there is no cure for glaucoma and vision loss from untreated glaucoma cannot be restored. Glaucoma treatments include medicines, laser trabeculoplasty, surgery, or any combination of these forms of therapy. The most common medicinal form of treatment for glaucoma comes in the form of eye drops or pills. Eyedrops used for glaucoma help to lower pressure in the eye. Some medicines work to lessen eye pressure by inhibiting the fluid that the eye makes. Others work to lower pressure by helping fluid drain from the eye. For some individuals, these medications may reduce the risk of developing glaucoma by about half.
Laser trabeculoplasty may also be suggested as a course of therapy to reduce the pressure and help fluid drain from the eye. This procedure is performed in your eye care professional’s office or eye clinic and may not replace the need for medication. Prior to the procedure, numbing drops will be administered. During this procedure, your eye care professional will aim a high-intensity beam of light onto the meshwork inside the eye, stretching the drainage holes in the eye and alleviating pressure. If you have glaucoma in both eyes, typically only one eye will be treated at a time. If laser trabeculoplasty or medicine alone fails to alleviate the pressure in the eye, your eye care professional may recommend conventional surgery (trabeculectomy) which is performed in an operating room.
How Tucker & Associates Can Help
Talk to your doctor about your risk for glaucoma and ask how often you need to get checked. Call Tucker & Associates to schedule a comprehensive eye exam today.