Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders leading to progressive damage to the optic nerve, and is characterized by loss of nerve tissue resulting in loss of vision. The optic nerve is a bundle of about one million individual nerve fibers and transmits the visual signals from the eye to the brain. The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, is associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye. This increase in pressure may cause progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of nerve fibers. Vision loss may result. Advanced glaucoma may even cause blindness. Not everyone with high eye pressure will develop glaucoma, and many people with normal eye pressure will develop glaucoma. When the pressure inside an eye is too high for that particular optic nerve, whatever that pressure measurement may be, glaucoma will develop.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It most often occurs in people over age 40, although a congenital or infantile form of glaucoma exists. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans over the age of 40, and Hispanics over the age of 60 are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Other risk factors include thinner corneas, chronic eye inflammation, and using medications that increase the pressure in the eyes.
The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, develops slowly and usually without any symptoms. Many people do not become aware they have the condition until significant vision loss has occurred. It initially affects peripheral or side vision, but can advance to central vision loss. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to significant loss of vision in both eyes, and may even lead to blindness.
Dry eyes are caused by either a malfunction in the lacrimal gland that doesn’t produce enough tears, or the tears themselves evaporate too quickly. Dry eyes A less common type of glaucoma, acute angle closure glaucoma, usually occurs abruptly due to a rapid increase of pressure in the eye. Its symptoms may include severe eye pain, nausea, redness in the eye, seeing colored rings around lights, and blurred vision. This condition is an ocular emergency, and medical attention should be sought immediately, as severe vision loss can occur quickly.
All of our comprehensive eye exams include a screening for glaucoma. We use an instrument called a tonometer to measure the pressure inside your eye. One of the most common tonometers uses a puff of air sent onto the surface of the eye to test the internal pressure. We also use advanced imaging technology that monitors the eyes optic nerve over the course of your exams to ensure that no changes have occurred. Visual field testing is another way to determine loss of peripheral vision. It involves staring ahead while holding a button that will allow you to click when you see a flashing light in the edges of your vision. The test catches any blind spots that may develop as a result of damage to the optic nerve as a result of glaucoma.
Glaucoma cannot currently be prevented, but if diagnosed and treated early it can usually be controlled. Medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. However, vision already lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. That is why we recommend annual dilated eye examination for people at risk for glaucoma as a preventive eye care measure. Depending on your specific condition, we may recommend more frequent examinations and additional testing.
If you suspect you have glaucoma, contact our office to schedule an eye exam with one of our doctors today. We will gladly answer any of your questions and provide you with the best treatment options available to you. If you experience any pain, nausea, sudden vision loss please call our office immediately.