Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and eventually result in vision loss or blindness. It develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable sight loss for many years. However, with early detection and treatment, it is possible to protect your eyes from a serious loss of vision.
Risk factors for glaucoma include:
- being over 40
- being African-American or Hispanic
- family history of glaucoma
- being diabetic
Because most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from this increased pressure, it is important to see your eye doctor regularly so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term visual loss occurs.
Glaucoma occurs when pressure in your eye increases due to a lack of circulation of the eye fluid in the front part of the eye.
Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness in the U.S. There major types of glaucoma are:
- Open-angle glaucoma (most common type, and happens slowly over time)
- Closed-Angle glaucoma (sudden fluid blockage and a quick rise in pressure)
- Congenital glaucoma (occurs in babies)
- Loss of side vision which, in advanced stages, can develop into tunnel vision
- Sudden, severe blurring of vision
- Severe pain in or around the eye
- Eye redness
- “Halos” around lights
You can’t prevent glaucoma and most people have no symptoms, but you can help prevent vision loss.
- All adults should have a complete eye exam by the age of 40.
- If you are at risk for glaucoma, you should have a complete eye exam sooner than age 40.
- You should have regular eye exams as recommended by your doctor.
- If you are at risk for closed-angle glaucoma, your doctor may recommend treatment before you have an attack to help prevent eye damage and vision loss.
Diagnosing eye conditions requires eye exams, which include the specialist looking for fluid or blood in the back of the eye after performing dilation and also testing for defects in central vision. The specialist will also perform a pressure test where a machine blows a puff of air into the eye.
Questions to Ask Your Health Care Provider
- What type of glaucoma do I have?
- How will my vision be affected now and in the future?
- Is it hereditary? What should I tell my family about my condition?
- What is my expected prognosis?
- Is it safe for me to drive?
- Is this hereditary?
- Will I lose my vision?
- What are my treatment options?
- How often do I need to have check-ups once I am diagnosed?
Early diagnosis is important as it can delay progression of the disease. Although treatment may save your remaining vision, it does not improve sight already lost from glaucoma.
- Medicines: This is usually in the form of eye drops or pills. These lower your eye pressure by making the eye less fluid or draining fluid from the eye.
- Laser trabeculoplasty: This surgical procedure helps to drain fluid out of the eye.
- Conventional Surgery: This makes a new opening for the fluid to leave the eye. This is often done if other methods do not work.
Your healthcare provider may also use a combination of the treatments mentioned above.