What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma, referred to as the “sneak thief of sight”, is an ocular condition that causes permanent irreversible vision loss.
The optic nerve, which is responsible for sending signals from the retina to the brain, is no longer able to function properly in glaucoma, causing vision loss. Vision loss caused by optic nerve damage is not treatable. However, if glaucoma is caught early, doctors are able to slow down optic nerve damage and vision loss.
Because glaucoma is uncovered during a comprehensive eye exam, attending regular exams is key to preventing vision loss from glaucoma. Glaucoma has little to no symptoms until vision loss occurs, so it is important to attend regular eye exams.
While the most common form of glaucoma does not show symptoms other than vision loss, a rare type, called acute angle-closure glaucoma, does have symptoms. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is serious and is considered a medical emergency. If you notice any of the following symptoms, contact your ophthalmologist immediately:
- Eye pain
- Sudden visual disturbances
- Severe headache
- Eye redness
Glaucoma risk factors
While high eye pressure is the most important risk factor for the development and progression of glaucoma, it is still only one of many. Some other risk factors include:
- Diabetes and related diabetic eye conditions
- High levels of myopia
- Trauma to the eye
- Steroid use
- Individuals who have a family history of glaucoma
- African Americans over the age of 40
What are the different types of glaucoma?
While there are many types of glaucoma, they can be broadly broken up into two categories:
Open-angle glaucoma. This is the most common type of glaucoma. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the drain of the eye, called the trabecular meshwork.
Angle-closure glaucoma. Is caused by poor drainage of intraocular fluid. In these cases the trabecular meshwork is physically blocked by the iris.
Individuals at risk for glaucoma should have frequent, routine eye examinations to help detect glaucoma. The trained glaucoma experts at OCLI use a variety of special glaucoma tests to test the eyes’ drainage angle (gonioscopy), measure eye pressure (tonometry), evaluate the optic nerve (ophthalmoscopy), and test visual fields (perimetry). Information gathered during these evaluations is compared over time at regular intervals to evaluate how the glaucoma has progressed.
An intraocular Pressure Check (Tonometry) measures intraocular pressure (IOP) and is used to aid in the diagnosis and detection of glaucoma. For this test, an ophthalmologist or technician uses eye drops to numb a patient’s eyes before using a special device to measure IOP. This test is painless and only takes a few seconds to complete.
During an Optic Nerve Examination (Ophthalmoscopy), an ophthalmologist examines the inside of the eye, focusing on the optic nerve and retina. For this test, the nerve is examined through the pupil. This allows the ophthalmologist to note the color and shape of the optic nerve. If there is an unusual color or shape to the optic nerve, the ophthalmologist will perform additional tests to further evaluate optic nerve function.
Drainage Angle Inspection (Gonioscopy) determines if the area where fluid drains of out of the eye is open or closed. If this area, called the drainage angle, is damaged, blocked, or clogged, pressure may increase within the eye, causing optic nerve damage.
Visual Field Evaluation (Perimetry) measures the visual field including peripheral vision to reveal areas of vision loss. A decrease in the visual field is often an early glaucoma sign.
At OCLI, our doctors are committed to providing the best glaucoma care medicine has to offer. The aim of glaucoma treatment is to slow or stop the progression of vision loss.