Glaucoma is an irreversible eye disease that can rob its victims of their precious sight and is incurable. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. And the most common type of glaucoma rarely displays noticeable symptoms until late in its development.
What exactly is Glaucoma?
The anterior chamber of the eye is filled with a fluid called the aqueous humor. This fluid is vital to the health of the eye and usually drains out through special channels. When this drainage no longer functions adequately, the aqueous humor (fluid) remains and pressure builds up in the eye. This is glaucoma.
The intraocular pressure (IOP) increases and permanent damage to the optic nerve occurs. In later stages, a patient may begin to notice tunnel vision.
Types of Glaucoma:
Primary open-angle glaucoma- by far the most common type, this glaucoma develops gradually as drainage slows. It does not display symptoms of the damage that is taking place until a significant portion of vision has been lost. Also known as chronic glaucoma, this type affects between three and four million Americans.
Angle-closure glaucoma- happens when the drainage angle in the eye abruptly closes, causing a sudden increase in the IOP. This pressure causes acute pain and vision loss and is a medical emergency. Although only one eye may suffer this acute attack, the other eye may also be at risk.
Secondary glaucoma- damage from diabetes or hypertension, a history of eye injury, or the use of corticosteroids can lead to the development of secondary glaucoma.
Low-tension (normal-tension) glaucoma- in this type of glaucoma, the eye pressure is not elevated but the optic nerve still becomes damaged. The cause is unknown.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
While acute symptoms are much more likely to occur in Angle-closure glaucoma, you should seek medical care immediately if any of the following occur:
- Vision loss
- Eye pain
- Seeing a halo around a light
- Hazy look in the eye
- Tunnel vision (narrowed vision)
- Nausea or vomiting with eye
Risk Factors for Glaucoma
- Heredity - You are at increased risk if there is a family history of glaucoma
- Age - If you are over 60, you are at increased risk for the disease
- Injury - A history of eye trauma increases your risk
- Race - African Americans over age 40 are at a significantly higher risk for glaucoma
- Meds - Using prednisone, hydrocortisone or cortisone increases your risk
- Other - Smoking and hypertension are believed to increase your risk
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Your optometrist will perform a comprehensive eye examination, which will start with a patient and family history. In addition to any injuries, infections or vision problems, you will need to tell the doctor about any general health problems you have and provide a complete list of all medications and supplements you are taking as well.
Your optometrist will determine which tests to perform based on the information you have provided, but may perform several of the following:
Tonometry (measures the pressure inside the eye)
Visual acuity measurements (determines if vision is being affected)
Pachymetry (measure corneal thickness; thinner corneas place you at increased risk)
Perimetry (visual field testing, measures your central and peripheral vision)
Other tests based on the clinical findings from the above.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
Eye drops are generally the first treatment for glaucoma. Common types include:
Prostaglandin analogs (work to increase fluid outflow from the eye, reducing the IOP)
Beta Blockers (decrease fluid production in the eye, lowering the IOP
If drugs are not effective, or if the patient cannot tolerate them, surgery is another way to reduce the pressure in the eye. Procedures may include:
Laser Trabeculoplasty (high energy laser beam unblocks clogged drainage structures)
Filtering Surgery (microsurgery forming a drainage flap)
Drainage implants (insertion of a small tube to aid in drainage)
Need A Glaucoma Eye Exam?
While there is no cure for glaucoma, regular eye examinations are your best chance to catch the disease in its early stages, particularly if you have any risk factors. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, your optometrist will help you manage your condition.
Your optometrist in College Station TX area, Dr. Matthew Greene and the Urban Optics team are here to partner with you in the detection and treatment of glaucoma. Call us at (979) 690-0888.