Glaucoma, The Silent Thief of Sight
Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that cause damage to the optic nerve commonly due to a buildup of pressure inside the eye. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting images to the brain; damage to it can impair vision, and untreated glaucoma can lead to total and permanent blindness.
The majority of people with the most common type of glaucoma experience no early signs or pain. Routine comprehensive eye examinations are extremely important for early detection, and treatment, before permanent vision loss occurs. It is even more critical for those over 40 years of age, diabetic, have a family history of glaucoma, or use corticosteroid products long-term.
Glaucoma often develops later in life. Over two million Americans have a type of it, but only half are diagnosed. It is a major cause of blindness worldwide.
There is no cure for glaucoma but the condition can usually be controlled to delay and minimize vision loss.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma occurs when excess eye fluids build up increasing fluid pressure (intraocular pressure). That pressure pushes against the sensitive optic nerve which is connected to the brain. Long-term high pressure can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve and result in irreversible vision loss.
Open-Angle or Wide-Angle Glaucoma
The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, also termed wide-angle glaucoma. 90% of glaucoma patients have this type. It is when the trabecular meshwork, a drain structure in the eye, isn’t working properly so fluid doesn’t flow out returning to the blood stream like it should.
Other causes less common can occur such as blocked blood vessels inside the eye, a serious eye infection, an eye injury, and inflammatory conditions. Typically glaucoma affects both eyes but to different degrees of severity.
Symptoms of Open-Angle Glaucoma:
- Early stages show no signs or symptoms. Later stages may cause the following:
- Gradual loss of peripheral vision
- Halos appear around lights
- Eye strain and fatigue
- Lack of visual acuity, particularly at night, that corrective eye wear does not fix
- Acute, Narrow or Angle-Closure Glaucoma
Less common in the West, there is also angle-closure glaucoma. This type is also termed acute or chronic angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma. It occurs when fluids can’t drain properly due to a narrowing of space between the iris and cornea. In these cases the buildup of pressure can be sudden, not gradual like open-angle glaucoma. Angle-closure glaucoma can cause severe and swift vision loss.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
Chances of developing glaucoma increase if you are diabetic, have a family history of the disease, are severely nearsighted, African American, or over 35 years of age. At age 35 and again at 40 it is important to get checked for glaucoma. After age 60, it is best to have your eye pressure checked and optic nerve examined annually.
Comprehensive eye examinations can reveal signs of developing glaucoma. Various tests are performed to check for changes in vision, inner eye pressure, close examination of the optic nerve and drainage angle where the iris meets the cornea.
Tonometry checks eye pressure by measuring the eye’s resistance to gentle pressure.
An ophthalmoscope magnifies and illuminates the inside of the eye so an optometrist can examine the shape and color of the optic nerve.
Perimetry maps the field of vision. This map can reveal visual changes that are being caused by early stages of glaucoma.
Gonioscopy is used to see whether the angled area where fluid drains out of the eye is open or closed. This can help determine if it is open-angle glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Treatment
There are three types of treatments to control glaucoma by means of lowering the pressure in the eye: medicine, laser surgery, or filtration surgery.
Eye drops or pills are prescribed to either slow production of eye fluid or improve the drainage flow.
For the majority of patients laser surgery can reduce or eliminate the need for glaucoma medication. However results may be temporary.
Endoscopic CycloPhotocoagulation (ECP)
Laser surgery treatment that targets the ciliary body in efforts to reduce the amount of fluid production.
Laser surgery is performed to alter the drainage canal’s “trabecular meshwork” in order to improve drainage.
In cases when medication and/or laser surgery are ineffective, a microsurgery procedure can create a new drainage channel.
William F. Beegle Optometry uses cutting-edge technology and advanced techniques to provide you maximum results and comfort. Optometric technology is rapidly evolving and we are keeping up with the latest developments in eye care in order to deliver the very best optometry services in New Jersey.
Visit us at 180 State Route 35, in the Monmouth Mall, Suite 2105, Eatontown.