What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a progressive condition where the internal pressure in the eye increases, causing damage to the optic nerve fibers that can result in permanent loss of vision. Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the United States today, affecting over two percent of the population over the age of 35. Individuals who are especially at high risk for glaucoma include: individuals with a family history of glaucoma; African Americans; diabetics and individuals who are very nearsighted or have had a previous eye injury.
In patients with glaucoma, the intraocular pressure which represents the pressure inside the eye becomes abnormally high. In a normal eye, fluid flows constantly in and out of the anterior chamber, keeping the intraocular pressure at a normal level. In an eye with glaucoma, the passages that normally allow the fluid to drain become blocked. No one is sure why this happens, but unless the pressure is controlled, permanent vision loss occurs.
What are the Different Types of Glaucoma?
Narrow Angle Glaucoma – This is a rare type of glaucoma that develops rapidly and its symptoms include blurred vision, severe pain and redness of the eye. This condition requires immediate attention, intensive medical treatment followed by laser surgery.
Open Angle Glaucoma– This is the most common type of glaucoma. It develops gradually and there are no symptoms. That is why eye doctors refer to this condition as “The Sneak Thief of Sight”. Most people are not aware that they have the disease.
Early detection of the disease is essential. It can only be achieved through comprehensive annual eye examinations. Several painless tests are performed to measure the pressure of the eye, and evaluate the health of the optic nerve. If the optic nerve is found to be damaged and the pressure inside the eye is found to be elevated, glaucoma is then suspected and additional tests are performed to confirm the diagnosis. A Visual Field Test will assess any changes in the central and side vision.
What Can Happen if Glaucoma goes Untreated?
Without treatment, glaucoma will continue to progress affecting first the side vision then the central vision and eventually cause blindness. However, an appropriate treatment can lower the pressure inside the eye, control the glaucoma and prevent any loss of vision. For most people, the treatment will consist of special eye drops used on a daily basis. Regular follow-up visits will insure that the pressure of the eye is under control and no additional damage to the optic nerve has occurred.
What are my Treatment Options for Glaucoma?
Laser trabeculoplasty uses a special laser beam to selectively open the drainage passageways within the trabecular meshwork (the area responsible for draining the fluid from the eye). In more advanced cases, surgery might be necessary to create a new drain to filter the excess fluid out of the eye.
The eye doctors at the Shammas Eye Medical Center routinely check the health of the optic nerve and the intraocular pressure to detect any abnormal changes. If glaucoma is suspected, visual fields will be performed and medical treatment will be started. If the intraocular pressure can not be controlled with eye drops or if the damage is extensive, our ophthalmic surgeons will use the laser to control the intraocular pressure and avoid progression of the glaucoma.