The symptoms and treatment of Glaucoma
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye that leads to damage of the optic nerve. When the passages that carry fluid in the eye get clogged or blocked it can lead to increased internal eye pressure. The increase in internal eye pressure from glaucoma is usually what causes optic nerve damage. The optic nerves are the nerve fibers that send information from the eye to the brain. When a person gets glaucoma and the optic nerve is damaged it can cause vision loss and if untreated even blindness.
Glaucoma affects an estimated 3 million Americans, most of which are over age 40. Up to half of those 3 million individuals are unaware that they have glaucoma. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States because so many people are unaware they have glaucoma and if untreated can lead to blindness.
What are the different forms of glaucoma?
Open-angle Glaucoma and Closed-angle Glaucoma are the two main forms of glaucoma. Open-angle Glaucoma is the most common form and has no symptoms in the beginning. The most significant factor in the progression of open-angle glaucoma is high eye pressure which gradually builds up. During the course of open-angle glaucoma peripheral vision is lost and if untreated blindness will occur.
There are two forms of closed-angle glaucoma: chronic and acute. Acute closed-angle glaucoma being the most sudden & severe must be treated immediately. Because of its severity acute closed-angle glaucoma can cause blindness in only one or two days if untreated. Progressing slowly, chronic closed-angle glaucoma can cause damage without any symptoms appearing, much like open-angle glaucoma.
What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?
Glaucoma symptoms may or may not be present depending on the severity and the type of disease. Contact a Family Vision Center physician to find out if you have any symptoms of glaucoma. Glaucoma symptoms may also develop in one eye or in both eyes. Some of the general symptoms which glaucoma could present include: loss of peripheral vision, cloudy or haloed vision, nausea or headaches, light sensitivity, excessive blinking, different sized eyes, excessive tearing and decreased vision. Both types of glaucoma can present specific symptoms.
Open-angle Glaucoma initially shows no symptoms, including no pain and no vision changes. As the disease progresses they following symptoms may gradually be present: failure of peripheral vision, narrowed vision and if untreated blindness.
Unlike Open-angle Glaucoma, Closed-angle Glaucoma can cause sudden and severe symptoms. Those with Closed-angle Glaucoma have an increase in eye pressure which can cause severe pain, nausea, redness of the eye and blurred vision. If any of these symptoms are present seek medical assistance immediately.
How is glaucoma detected?
The best way to detect glaucoma in its early stages is to have regular screening tests with your eye care physician. If you are due for an eye exam schedule a glaucoma screening with a Family Vision Center doctor today. At Family Vision Center we have state of the art equipment that helps in the evaluation of diseases of the retina as well as glaucoma & macular degeneration. Routine eye exams can tell physicians if your eye pressure is high or if your optical nerve is damaged. If any glaucoma symptoms are present your eye care doctor may require you to have additional testing to make a proper diagnosis. If necessary, additional testing can be done to check for abnormalities in your internal eye pressure and your optic nerve.
Who is at risk for developing Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is thought to affect only the elderly, and yes there is a greater risk of developing glaucoma when you are over age 60, but it can affect people of all ages. Because of this it is important to have routine eye exams that include glaucoma testing. If you are at a higher risk for developing glaucoma more frequent glaucoma testing may be necessary.
The leading cause of blindness in African Americans and Hispanics in the U.S. is glaucoma. African Americans are up to four times more likely than Caucasians to develop blindness from glaucoma and nearly three times more likely to get glaucoma.
Aside from age and ethnicity there are some other risk factors associated with glaucoma, including: people with a family history of glaucoma, those who have suffered from eye injuries and people that have ocular hypertension. Medical conditions which may affect a person’s risk of obtaining glaucoma include: diabetes, hypothyroidism, leukemia, sickle cell anemia and arthritis. Contact a Family Vision Center physician to discuss your risk factors for developing glaucoma.
How is glaucoma treated?
If diagnosed and treated in its early stages, glaucoma can be controlled, but not prevented. Proper treatment can slow or even stop the progression of glaucoma. But the damage which was already done to the optic nerve is permanent and any vision loss associated with glaucoma cannot be restored.
Treatment for glaucoma is dependent on the type of glaucoma and its severity. The typical treatment for open-angle glaucoma involves medications which increase the draining of eye fluid and/or produce less eye fluid. Laser surgery can also help in some instances to drain fluid from the eye. Closed-angle glaucoma depending on its severity can be treated with medications, laser surgery or a combination of both. Contact a Family Vision Center physician to discuss if laser surgery is right for you. Family Vision Center doctors will co-manage your glaucoma surgery with a glaucoma surgery specialist to make sure you receive the best results.