WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?
Glaucoma is a very common group of eye conditions that damages the eye’s optic nerve. It affects millions of Americans each year. As cataracts, it gets worse over the years. It is a leading cause of blindness that can be prevented with early treatments. Hence, the need to consult an ophthalmologist if you experience symptoms.
Glaucoma is caused by higher than normal pressure levels of the eyes. Patients diagnosed with glaucoma will need to have the pressure relieved to avoid irreversible vision loss. There are two major types of glaucoma:
1 – Open-angle glaucoma
With open-angle glaucoma, the intraocular pressure (IOP) of the eye rises because the normal amount of eye fluid cannot be drained out of the eye. At first, this type of glaucoma is painless and does not entail vision changes. If it is not diagnosed and treated it can gradually lead to vision loss.
2 – Closed-angle glaucoma
Closed-angle glaucoma is the result of the iris bulges forward to diminish or block the drainage angle of the eye formed by the cornea and iris. When it happens, fluid cannot circulate correctly and pressure increases. If the drainage angle gets completely blocked, eye pressure increases very quickly. This is known as an acute attack. A patient who gets an acute attack needs to seek his/her ophthalmologist helps as fast as possible or he/she can go blind.
Some signs of acute attack:
- Sudden severe eye pain
- Sudden blurry vision
- Seeing rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights
Closed-angle glaucoma often develops slowly with no symptoms. Patients will not know if they have this pathology until symptoms appear or until they have an acute attack.
Medication such as beta-blocker and carbonic anhydrase inhibitor can normally help reduce pressure from glaucoma by improving the drainage or slow the creation of fluid in the eye. If the medication does not work, an ophthalmologist can perform surgery to stop the progression of the disease. It is necessary to know that vision loss cannot be reversed if glaucoma has already done damages to the eye. That is why it is important to work closely with your eye doctor to watch the progression of the disease and administrate necessary treatments.
A surgeon can perform different surgical procedures depending on how advanced the disease is and how it progresses. For the less advanced cases, a laser can be used to annihilate the symptoms. A surgeon can also do an incision to install a small drainage. Those two procedures will reduce the pressure of the eye to avoid optic nerve damages. For very severe cases, an ophthalmologist specialized in glaucoma can perform a more advanced incision. Glaucoma has no cure, but by seeing an eye doctor in the early stages of the disease, patients can be treated adequately and live a normal life.
3 – Secondary glaucoma
Secondary glaucoma is when another medical condition such as cataract or diabetes causes glaucoma.
4 – Normal-tension glaucoma
Normal-tension glaucoma happens when a patient has blind spots in his/her vision or when the optic nerve is damaged even though the eye pressure is within the average range. Opinions among experts vary and some say this is a form of open-angle glaucoma.
5 – Pigmentary glaucoma
Pigmentary glaucoma is when small pigments of the iris (colored part of the eye) move into the eye fluid and clog the drainage canals.
GLAUCOMA RISK FACTORS
- Age over 40
- Family history
- Poor vision
- Steroid medication use
- Past eye injuries
- Corneas thinner than usual
- High blood pressure and heart disease
- Being nearsighted or farsighted
During a glaucoma eye exam, your ophthalmologist will measure your eye pressure, inspect your eye’s drainage angle, examine your optic nerve, test your peripheral vision, take a picture of your optic nerve, and measure the thickness of the cornea.
There are a few different types of treatments for Glaucoma, including medicines, laser treatment, and surgery.
Medicines – It is very common for optometrists and ophthalmologists to prescribe eye drops. The eye drops will lower the pressure in the eye and prevent damage to the optic nerve.
Laser Treatment – It is a simple procedure that doctors can do in their offices. Lasers will help drain the eye fluid and lower the pressure in the eye.
Surgery – In case the medicines and laser treatments do not work, doctors can do surgery. There are different types of surgeries that can help drain the eye fluid.