Glaucoma: What Is It, What Are The Symptoms, And Treatment
An incurable but treatable eye disease that is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, glaucoma can result in irreversible damage to the optic nerve. This can eventually lead to reduced vision and even blindness if left untreated. Dr. Anderson and his knowledgeable staff understand that the key to preserving your sight is early diagnosis of the disease.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is usually associated with increased intraocular pressure (IOP) in the fluid-filled anterior chamber of your eye. In a healthy eye, there is a balance of inflow of fluid and outflow through through special channels that keeps IOP at a normal level. If these outflow channels are clogged or not functioning properly, IOP builds up, ultimately damaging the optic nerve.
Types of Glaucoma
Primary open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma, developing very slowly and exhibiting no noticeable symptoms until much peripheral vision has already been permanently lost.
Low-tension glaucoma is a version of open-angle glaucoma where intraocular pressure seems to be normal, but gradual damage to the optic nerve occurs nonetheless. It is unclear why some people are susceptible to this type of glaucoma.
Angle-closure glaucoma is less common, but occurs when the drainage channels of the eye are blocked by other eye structures. With complete blockage, fluid pressure builds up rapidly in the eye, resulting in significant pain, blurred vision, and haloes around light. This can cause permanent vision loss very quickly, and is considered to be an ocular emergency. More often, though, there is only partial or intermittent blockage, with less increase in pressure and possibly no immediate symptoms.
Secondary glaucoma can develop in patients with previous eye injuries, history of certain ocular or systemic diseases, or use of medications which can raise eye pressure.
Who Is at Risk for Glaucoma?
Anyone can develop glaucoma at any age. A routine comprehensive eye examination should become a regular part of your family’s healthcare as your optometrist can detect any signs of glaucoma, even those that do not generate symptoms. Factors that increase your risk of developing glaucoma include:
- Age over 60
- Family history of glaucoma
- High myopia
- Hypertension or diabetes
- Personal history of eye trauma
- African-American descent
- Ocular or systemic treatment with steroid medications
- Personal history of other eye diseases
Symptoms of Glaucoma
Glaucoma typically has no significant symptoms until there has been considerable irreversible damage to the optic nerve. The best way to prevent this is with regular eye exams to monitor intraocular pressure and optic nerve health, especially for those in high risk categories.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Glaucoma
Diagnosis of glaucoma is often not easy. Sometimes there are obvious signs, but many patients have borderline findings which require monitoring over time to get a better feel of the risk for glaucoma. If there are suspicious findings during a routine exam, further testing is usually required, including visual fields tests(checking your peripheral field of vision) and OCT(optical coherent tomography), which is a detailed scan of your optic nerve and retina. If glaucoma is eventually diagnosed, it is treated by lowering the intraocular pressure. Treatment is individualized for each patient, but may include:
- Prescription eyedrops
- Laser treatment to increase drainage of fluid from the eye
- Minimally invasive surgery of various types
- More significant surgery when necessary
Expert Optometry Care in Lawrence
Here in Lawrence, KS, your optometrist, Dr. Curtis R. Anderson, and his capable staff know that early detection and treatment lead to the best outcomes. If you or a family member experience any of the above symptoms, call us at 785-843-8200 for an appointment today.