What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a concerning eye disease that can cause irreparable damage to the optic nerve. This vital nerve transfers visual information to the brain from the back of the eye. Glaucoma usually involves abnormally high pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure, which compresses the optic nerve. If caught early, damage may be slowed or halted.
There are several forms of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common. This condition does not cause immediate symptoms. It presses on the optic nerve consistently, though, leading to gradual vision impairment. Narrow-angle glaucoma is less common, fortunately. This condition is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment to prevent vision loss. The symptoms of narrow-angle glaucoma include:
- Sudden vision disturbances
- Sudden blurred vision
- Seeing colored rings around lights
- Severe eye pain
- Redness in the eye
What Causes Glaucoma?
Fluid called aqueous humor is continually produced at the back of the eye. Its purpose is to fill the front and central parts of the eye and secure structures in place. As new fluid is continuously produced, fluid must also exit the eye. It does so through channels in the iris and cornea. Glaucoma develops when these normal channels do not work properly. It isn’t clear what causes fluid and pressure to build up in the eye. Several factors may be involved, from a physical blockage in the drainage matrix to high blood pressure to the use of certain medications. The World Health Organization also lists age, ethnicity (black adults have a higher risk for glaucoma), family history, and chronic eye inflammation as risk factors.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms until a person begins to lose vision. At that point, people may notice that their peripheral vision is bad, or just that their vision in general, is not as sharp and clear as it once was.
How is Glaucoma diagnosed?
An ophthalmologist performs a comprehensive medical history and eye exam, including specific screenings, to reach an accurate diagnosis of symptoms.
- A detailed health history can identify risk factors such as chronic health conditions and family history of glaucoma or other eye diseases.
- Tonometry testing painlessly measures intraocular pressure.
- Pachymetry testing measures corneal thickness. Thinner than normal corneas may be a risk factor for the development of glaucoma.
- Perimetry testing is a visual field test that observes side, or peripheral, vision as well as central vision.
- Optic nerve imaging may be performed to create a baseline or monitor changes over time.
How is Glaucoma Treated at Wilkinson Eye Center?
The objective of glaucoma treatment is to decrease the abnormal intraocular pressure and stop the progression of vision loss. To accomplish this, a doctor may suggest medication or surgical intervention. Several FDA-approved drugs are available. They come in the form of eye drops or oral medication. Each is designed to reduce the pressure within the eyes. Depending on the severity of the condition, both may be prescribed for simultaneous use.
Surgery may be necessary to treat glaucoma that does not improve with medication or that is already severe at the time of diagnosis. The objective of surgical intervention is, like more conservative approaches, to lower intraocular pressure. Surgery called trabeculectomy does this by creating a new path for fluid to drain from the eye.
Can Vision Loss From Glaucoma Be Reveresed?
Unfortunately no. Once part of your vision is lost to glaucoma it can’t be recovered. That is why we, at Wilkinson Eye Center in Pontiac and Clarkston, MI try our best to detect it before you notice any loss of vision.
How can Glaucoma be prevented?
There is no way to prevent glaucoma. Our best course of action at this time is to detect changes in intraocular pressure as early as possible so treatment can begin. To catch glaucoma in its early stages, before vision impairment occurs, adults should maintain annual dilated eye exams with a board-certified ophthalmologist. Simple tests performed during these yearly visits evaluate the health of the optic nerve and amount of pressure exerted on it.
Is Glaucoma Painful?
Usually not. It can in certain forms, but the most common forms of glaucoma tend to not cause any pain.
Why Does My Doctor Need To Do A Visual Field Test?
The visual field test helps your doctor determine if there are any changes in your peripheral vision that would make them believe that you have glaucoma, or that your glaucoma is getting worse.
Will Glaucoma cause blindness?
If high intraocular pressure cannot be normalized, glaucoma can cause blindness. Our goal in treating this condition is to regulate intraocular pressure to prevent the progression of vision loss.
How Much Does Glaucoma Treatment Cost?
We will work with you to obtain the most cost-effective eye drops we can and we will bill your medical insurance for all of your exams and testing as well as any surgery you may need.
What To Do If You Are At Risk
If you feel you may be at risk or that you are developing glaucoma, a full exam by an ophthalmologist to look at your optic nerve and examine your intraocular pressure (IOP) is the first step. Further tests such as a visual field test or optic nerve analyzer may be done if necessary. The ophthalmologist at Wilkinson Eye Center have the knowledge and expertise to effectively detect, diagnosis and treat glaucoma.