Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steals sight without warning or without symptoms. This loss of vision is caused by damage to the optic nerve. The nerve acts like an electric cable with over a million wires and is responsible for carrying the images we see to the brain. It was once thought that high eye pressure was the main cause of this optic nerve damage. Although eye pressure is clearly a risk factor, we now know that other factors must also be involved because even people with “normal” IOP (intraocular pressure) can experience vision loss from glaucoma.
What Are The Risk Factors For Glaucoma?
Glaucoma can occur in anyone. The chance of developing glaucoma increases if you are African-American or Hispanic; have a relative with glaucoma; are very nearsighted; are over 35 years of age; have diabetes and/or hypertension, and/or any vascular diseases.
What Are The Different Types Of Glaucoma?
The most common types of glaucoma include primary open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma, secondary glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, and cataracts and glaucoma. The most common type of glaucoma is Primary Open Angle Glaucoma, affecting about three million Americans. It happens when the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time. The IOP rises because the correct amount of fluid can’t drain out of the eye. Most people have no symptoms and no early warning signs. If open-angle glaucoma is not diagnosed and treated, it can cause a gradual loss of vision. This type of glaucoma develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable sight loss for many years. It usually responds well to medication, especially if caught early and treated.
How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed And Monitored?
Tonometry – used to measure eye pressure. A technician will use a special device that measures the eye’s pressure.
Ophthalmoscopy – used to examine the inside of the eye, especially the optic nerve. In a darkened room, the doctor will magnify your eye by using a magnifying lens to look at the shape and color of the optic nerve.
Perimetry – During this test, you will be asked to look straight ahead and then indicate when a moving light passes your peripheral (or side) vision. This helps draw a “map” of your vision.
Gonioscopy – a painless eye test that checks for open or closed-angle glaucoma.
Nerve Fiber Layer Analyzer – uses a computerized machine that takes pictures of your nerve fiber layer. This test helps diagnose and monitor treatment.
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
Medicines – Glaucoma is generally treated with eye drops and/or pills if necessary. To be effective, glaucoma medications must be taken as prescribed. Side effects will be discussed when the medications are given.
Laser Surgery – Laser surgery is being employed more and more as a first-line and adjunctive form of treatment. After the eye is numbed with drops, the laser beam is applied to the trabecular meshwork in the doctor’s office. The procedure takes only a few minutes and results in improving the rate of drainage. If the laser surgery is successful, it may reduce the need for additional eye drops or, possibly, even reduce the need for current eye drops. (show pic of SLT)
Filtration Surgery – Generally performed when medications and laser fail to control the eye pressure. During this procedure, a new drainage channel is formed to allow fluid to drain from the eye. Your ophthalmologist will thoroughly discuss the surgery with you.
Is There A Cure?
Currently, there is no cure for glaucoma. Glaucoma is a chronic disease that must be treated for life; however, much is happening in research that makes us hopeful a cure may be realized in our lifetime.
Persons Over Age 50 Should See An Eye Care Professional Every 2 years.
Schedule your appointment today. Drs. Campbell, Cunningham, Taylor and Haun are standing by ready to offer personal care and state-of-the-art technology.
For an appointment, call (865) 584-0905.