Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve of the eyes. The optic nerve is the messenger between the eyes and the brain. When the optic nerve becomes damaged, vision is impaired.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. An estimated 1 out of 50 adults is affected by this disease. With early detection and treatment by your optometrist or ophthalmologist, loss of sight from glaucoma is preventable.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Glaucoma is frequently called the “sneak thief of sight,” because there are often no symptoms before severe vision loss occurs. 

What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma is caused by pressure in the eye caused by a build-up of a fluid, called the aqueous humor. The aqueous humor circulates through the eye, nourishing the tissues, and then exits the eye through a drainage system called the angle. When this drainage system becomes obstructed, fluid builds up, causing the pressure inside the eye to rise. In some cases, the eye simply produces more aqueous humor than it can drain, which also results in a rise of pressure. This elevated pressure cannot be felt. There are no symptoms or side-effects until damage has already been done to the optic nerve.

Who is at risk for glaucoma?

Anyone can get glaucoma, however, some people are at a higher risk. They include:

  • African-Americans over age 40
  • Anyone over age 60
  • People with a family history of glaucoma
  • People with a history of severe anemia or shock
  • People with past injuries to the eyes
  • People with myopia

What are the different types of glaucoma?

The two main types of Glaucoma are

  • Chronic open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. The drainage angle is open, but working less efficiently, usually due to age. As a result, pressure builds up slowly, causing a gradual loss of side vision. It progresses so slowly it usually goes undetected.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the drainage angle of the eye is totally blocked, preventing any fluid to drain. This causes the pressure inside the eye to rise suddenly. This instant rise in pressure can cause halos to appear around lights, blurred vision, headaches, and severe eye pain. Call your ophthalmologist or optometrist immediately, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Your vision may be in imminent danger.

There are several subsets of Chronic Open-Angle and Angle-Closure glaucoma such as

  • Secondary Glaucoma is caused by inflammation of the eye, severe cases of diabetes, the use of steroids or an eye injury. The increase of eye pressure results in optic nerve damage and vision loss.
  • Chronic angle-closure glaucoma is a more gradual and painless closing of the angle. Chronic angle-closure glaucoma occurs more frequently in people of African and Asian ancestry.
  • Normal-Tension Glaucoma results in damage to the optic nerve and vision loss without high eye pressures.
  • Congenital Glaucoma is a rare condition in infants that have underdeveloped eyes. It can be easily managed with surgery and/or medication although lost vision will not be restored.

How is glaucoma detected?

Glaucoma is most often found during a dilated eye examination, which is utterly painless. During an examination, your eye doctor will measure the intraocular pressure of your eye, inspect the drainage angle, evaluate any damage to the optic nerve and test the vision of each eye. It may not be necessary for you to have all of these tests, although it is recommended that you repeat them on a regular basis to determine if optic nerve damage is increasing over time.

How is glaucoma treated?

Glaucoma damage is permanent and cannot be reversed. But medicine and surgery help to stop further damage. 

Glaucoma is usually treated in-office with prescription eye drops and by laser procedures known as Argon Laser Trabeculectomy (ALT) or Selective Laser Trabeculectomy (SLT). The two types of laser surgery help aqueous drain from the eye and reduce eye pressure.

If you are prescribed glaucoma medication, it is extremely important to use every dose, every day, as these eye drops lower eye pressure. If you experience any side effects with the use of the eye drops, contact your ophthalmologist–don’t just stop taking your medication as you may lose vision.

Glaucoma Treatment in Bourbonnais, Illinois

Glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment. Having regular eye exams can help your ophthalmologist find early signs of damage to the optic nerve. Contact Fisher-Swale-Nicholson Eye Center today at (815) 932-2020 to schedule your eye exam.