glaucoma

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GlaucomaGlaucoma

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the name given to a group of conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve – the nerve that connects the eye to the brain. It is a leading cause of irreversible blindness. Damage from glaucoma affects the peripheral vision first and as the disease progresses; it does so towards the center of the vision. Once vision is lost from glaucoma it cannot be regained so early detection is key. A simple, painless eye examination can detect the disease and with early detection and treatment, glaucoma can usually be controlled and blindness prevented.

Glaucoma can affect any from newborn infants to the elderly. It is estimated that up to 3 million Americans have glaucoma, with nearly half of these people not knowing they have the disease because there are no symptoms.

There are two types of glaucoma:

  • Open Angle Glaucoma – This is the more common form of glaucoma and simply means that the drainage areas of the eye appear open to your physician. First line treatment of this type of glaucoma is with eye drops or with an in office laser procedure called SLT (selective laser trabeculoplasty).
  • Narrow Angle Glaucoma – If the drainage area appears narrow or crowded, a different laser procedure, a laser peripheral iridotomy (LPI) may be recommended. This office procedure also uses a laser but is used to create a small opening in the iris (the colored part of the eye) to act as a different passage for the eye fluid to reach the normal drainage area and protect you against an attack of angle closure glaucoma.

Why does it occur?

Glaucoma can affect any from newborn infants to the elderly. It is estimated that up to 3 million Americans have glaucoma, with nearly half of these people not knowing they have the disease because there are no symptoms.

The most common form of glaucoma is related to elevated pressure in the eye, however this is not the only cause and glaucoma can develop at normal eye pressures. People who are at greater risk for developing glaucoma may have the following:

  • Greater than 45 years old without regular eye exams
  • A family history of glaucoma
  • Abnormally elevated eye pressures
  • African American decent
  • Nearsighted
  • Diabetes
  • Previous eye injury or trauma
  • Regular, long term use of steroids/cortisone

What are the symptoms?

There are typically no early warning signs or symptoms of open-angle glaucoma. It develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable sight loss for many years.

Most people who have open-angle glaucoma feel fine and do not notice a change in their vision at first because the initial loss of vision is of side or peripheral vision, and the visual acuity or sharpness of vision is maintained until late in the disease.

By the time a patient is aware of vision loss, the disease is usually quite advanced. Vision loss from glaucoma is not reversible with treatment, even with surgery.

Because open-angle glaucoma has few warning signs or symptoms before damage has occurred, it is important to see a doctor for regular eye examinations. If glaucoma is detected during an eye exam, your eye doctor can prescribe a preventative treatment to help protect your vision.

In open-angle glaucoma, the angle in your eye where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be, but the eye’s drainage canals become clogged over time, causing an increase in internal eye pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve. It is the most common type of glaucoma, affecting about four million Americans, many of whom do not know they have the disease.

You are at increased risk of glaucoma if your parents or siblings have the disease, if you are African-American or Latino, and possibly if you are diabetic or have cardiovascular disease. The risk of glaucoma also increases with age.

Symptoms of Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma

  • Hazy or blurred vision
  • The appearance of rainbow-colored circles around bright lights
  • Severe eye and head pain
  • Nausea or vomiting (accompanying severe eye pain)
  • Sudden sight loss

In angle-closure glaucoma (also called narrow angle glaucoma), the angle is closed in many or most areas, causing increased eye pressure, which leads to optic nerve damage, and possible vision loss. This rise in eye pressure may occur suddenly (an acute attack of angle closure) or gradually. There are also early stages of the disease in which the angle is closed but the eye pressure may or may not be high and the optic nerve is not affected yet.

Symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma are very noticeable and damage occurs quickly. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek immediate care from an ophthalmologist.

How Is Glaucoma Treated?

Glaucoma damage is permanent—it cannot be reversed. But medicine and surgery help to stop further damage. To treat glaucoma, the opthalmologists at Falgoust Eye Medical & Surgical may use one or more of the following treatments.

Glaucoma medication

Medicated eye drops are the most common way to treat glaucoma. These medications lower your eye pressure in one of two ways — either by reducing the amount of fluid created in the eye or by helping this fluid flow out of the eye through the drainage angle. These eyedrops must be taken every day. Just like any other medication, it is important to take your eyedrops regularly as prescribed. Once you are taking medications for glaucoma, you will want to be seen regularly by your opthalmologist at Falgoust Eye Medical & Surgical. You can expect to visit about every 3–6 months, however, this can vary depending on your treatment needs.

Glaucoma surgery

In some patients with glaucoma, surgery is recommended. Glaucoma surgery improves the flow of fluid out of the eye, resulting in lower eye pressure.

Don’t wait any longer… See clearly again.

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