Chances are, you’ve heard of glaucoma. Maybe one of your grandparents had it, or you’ve heard that dogs and cats can get glaucoma. But you’re not exactly sure what it is or how it affects vision. January is National Glaucoma Awareness month, a perfect time to get the facts about glaucoma.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes vision loss and can cause blindness. Glaucoma is hazardous because the most common type—called “open-angle” glaucoma—does not usually cause symptoms at first.  

What causes glaucoma?

Most glaucoma happens when the fluid inside your eye does not drain normally. (This fluid is not tears, but a fluid called “aqueous humor.”) When fluid builds up, so does the pressure inside your eye. This pressure damages the optic nerve, causing vision loss and eventually blindness.

It is possible to have glaucoma with normal eye pressure. Doctors call this “normal-tension glaucoma.” It could happen if the optic nerve is fragile or there is poor blood flow to the nerve.

 

 

Vision with glaucoma. Image courtesy of the AAO.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

 

 

Open-angle and normal-tension glaucoma do not usually cause symptoms. If you don’t know you have glaucoma, you might not notice anything until you lose vision. This is why glaucoma is sometimes called the “silent thief of sight.”

Vision loss from glaucoma can make things look blurry around the edges.

A type of glaucoma called “angle-closure” or “narrow-angle” glaucoma can cause sudden symptoms, including:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Halos around lights
  • Vision loss, including sudden loss of side (peripheral) vision

People with advanced open-angle glaucoma might also notice some of these symptoms. If you have any of these, contact an eye doctor immediately. You can call Oregon Eye Specialists at 503-935-5580.

Should I get tested for glaucoma?

Yes. If you are 40 or older, you need regular general eye exams, including glaucoma testing. This is important because most glaucoma causes no symptoms in the early stages. Without regular eye exams, you could lose vision to glaucoma before you know you have it.

Learn about general eye exams at Oregon Eye Specialists.

How is glaucoma treated?

The main treatments for glaucoma include:

  • Prescription eye drops – These contain medicines to reduce the amount of fluid your eye produces, increase fluid drainage and relieve pressure inside the eye. Some prescription eye drops do more than one of these things.
  • Surgery – Laser or traditional surgery can help fluid drain from the eye

Angle-closure (narrow-angle) glaucoma comes on suddenly. It is a medical emergency. A doctor can do laser treatment to relieve pressure inside the eye. You might also need medicines or other treatments.

Can glaucoma be prevented?

Regular eye exams can detect glaucoma early, when treatment has the best chance of preventing vision loss.

If your doctor prescribes eye drops or other medications, use them exactly as directed, and tell your doctor about any side effects. Effective treatment can help prevent vision loss from glaucoma.

Learn more about glaucoma from Oregon Eye Specialists.

Don’t let glaucoma steal your sight. Contact Oregon Eye Specialists to make an appointment with one of our experienced, caring physicians. With 10 convenient locations there is an Oregon Eye Specialists clinic near you.