Everyone should be concerned about glaucoma because the symptoms of this serious disease are “silent.”
Glaucoma is nearly always painless, and slowly robs you of vision- without you being aware of it. Only regular visits to a qualified eye doctor will reveal the signs that you are at risk for glaucoma or already have the disease.
What causes it?
Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged. It is associated with elevated pressure inside the eye, or intraocular pressure (IOP). That’s why we measure your IOP with a tonometer every time you come for a routine checkup. The increase in pressure happens when the passages that normally allow fluid to flow through your eyes become clogged or blocked. The reasons that the passages become blocked are not known. When the internal pressure increases, the nerve fibers in the optic nerve become damaged, and vision is affected. Another way we evaluate glaucoma is by measuring your visual fields. We use a computerized instrument that projects spots of light, and you indicate during the test which spots you see. A visual fields test helps us determine how much your vision has been affected.
How is it treated?
Treatment often includes the use of a drop or drops which you must place in your eyes every day. These drops can help control your eye pressure. Sometimes the dosage is adjusted, or the type of drop will be changed, so the drops are more effective in controlling IOPs. This, in turn, will minimize the damage caused to the optic nerve. Side effects of glaucoma drops may include allergy, redness of eyes, brief stinging or visual blurring, and irritated eyes. There is also laser surgery and microsurgery for glaucoma. Laser surgery slightly increases the outflow of the fluid from the eye or eliminates fluid blockage. Microsurgery is performed to create a new channel to drain the ocular fluid; this form of glaucoma surgery sometimes needs to be repeated. Some people are considered ’glaucoma suspects.’ This means you are more likely to develop glaucoma. We will check your IOP more often, and pay close attention to any change. The purpose is to begin medication as soon as it is needed, so that your vision is not affected. You might be a glaucoma suspect if you are over the age of 45, have a family history of glaucoma, are African American, have diabetes, or are extremely nearsighted.
Is there a cure?
There is no cure for glaucoma, but the disease can be managed over time. Our practice has quite a few glaucoma patients, and we are experienced in prescribing the appropriate medications and monitoring your eye health. Good eye health care can minimize the dangerous effects of glaucoma to your vision.