Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the US, and can affect patients of all ages – many of whom do not experience any symptoms and may not be aware that they have the disease. Fortunately, our staff at Oregon Eye Specialists are knowledgeable about Glaucoma, and can help you to find relief. Read more about this condition and how to take steps to better your life.
Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve from increased pressure in the eye. Most of the time, glaucoma is unrelated to any other eye or systemic health conditions but in some cases it can be caused by systemic medications, eye surgery, or other diseases of the eye.
There are two main types of glaucoma: open-angle and angle closure. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma by far and involves fluid in the eye encountering chronic resistance to outflow within the spongy channels of the eye tissue. Angle closure glaucoma involves a sudden buildup of pressure because the angle between the iris and cornea, which is the entrance to the outflow of the fluid, is narrow and is prone to acute closure.
While there are no surefire ways to prevent glaucoma from developing, regular screenings and early detection are the best forms of protection against the harmful damage that the disease can cause. While anyone can develop glaucoma, some people are at a higher risk for developing the disease. These people may include those who:
- Are over the age of 60
- African Americans over the age of 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Have poor vision
- Have diabetes
Patients should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years, especially if they have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Older patients may be encouraged to be tested more frequently.
Patients typically do not experience any symptoms during the early stages of glaucoma, such as pain and vision loss. This makes it difficult for many patients to know if they have the disease. But as glaucoma progresses, patients may experience the following:
- Loss of peripheral or side vision
- Sudden eye pain
- Blurred vision
- The appearance of halos around lights
While some patients may experience symptoms from glaucoma as the disease progresses, others do not learn they have the condition until they undergo a routine eye exam.
There are several different exams performed to diagnose glaucoma, including a visual field and visual acuity test. These tests measure peripheral vision and how well patients can see at various distances. Other tests may also be performed to measure the pressure inside the eye and measure the thickness of the cornea.
Once glaucoma has been diagnosed, treatment should begin as soon as possible to help minimize the risk of permanent vision loss. There is no cure for glaucoma, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing further damage from occurring.
Most cases of glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, laser surgery, or microsurgery. The best treatment for your individual case depends on the type and severity of the disease, and can be discussed with your doctor.
Eye drops are used to reduce fluid production in the front of the eye or to help drain excess fluid, but can lead to redness, stinging, irritation, or blurry vision. Patients should tell their doctor about any allergies they have to minimize the risk of side effects.
Laser surgery for glaucoma aims to increase the outflow of fluid from the eye or eliminate fluid blockages.
Microsurgery involves creating a new channel to drain fluid from the eye and reducing the pressure that causes glaucoma. Surgery is often performed after medication and laser procedures have failed.
To learn more about glaucoma and how you can be tested for this serious condition, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors.