Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness in the world. At the present time, an estimated 3 million U.S. adults are living with glaucoma, with the vast majority of these people being over the age of 40. Despite most people have heard of glaucoma, many don’t fully understand what the conditions are and what it means for their vision should they develop it. They are also unaware that spotting the signs of glaucoma is essential for preserving their vision, and that regular appointment with an eye doctor is the best way to prevent glaucoma and any other eye disease from having an impact on the long-term health of their eyes.
Here’s the information that you need to understand glaucoma better, how to spot it, and what options will be available to you should you be affected.
Glaucoma is an eye condition that is characterized by rising pressure within the eye. Known as intraocular pressure, or IOP for short, over time this pressure can cause damage to the optic nerve, compromising patient vision. This is because the optic nerve is responsible for sending messages between the eye and brain, and damage to it can mean that the messages aren’t interpreted correctly. There are several different types of glaucoma, and these are as follows:
Open-angle glaucoma. By far the most common type, open-angle glaucoma accounts for as many as 90% of cases. Patients who experience open-angle glaucoma develop symptoms very slowly, normally over a number of years, which makes it more difficult to spot. It is caused by the drainage channels in the eye slowly becoming clogged and blocked, preventing fluid from draining properly and forcing the pressure in the eyes to increase.
Closed-angle glaucoma. Closed-angle glaucoma is fairly rare. However, it develops very rapidly, caused by a sudden blockage in the drainage channels that causes pressure to rise dramatically. As a result of this, symptoms also develop much more quickly.
Secondary glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma is when the rising pressure in the eye is triggered by another underlying ocular condition, such as uveitis or advanced cataracts. It can also occur as a result of taking certain drugs, such as steroids.
Childhood glaucoma. Although very rare, it is possible for children to develop glaucoma shortly after birth or in early childhood, and this normally occurs as a result of a defect with the eye’s drainage system that developed before birth.
In the vast majority of cases, the signs of glaucoma will develop very slowly- so much so that you probably won’t even notice them. In fact, nearly all glaucoma is detected at routine eye exams and comes as a surprise to patients. This is because glaucoma begins by affecting our peripheral vision. This is the very edges of our vision and since our focus is nearly always on our central vision, it often isn’t until our eye doctor checks our peripheral vision that the damage done to it becomes clear. However, that isn’t to say that there are no signs of glaucoma. If your glaucoma is developing slowly, these will include blurred vision, poor peripheral vision, and rainbow-colored circles around lights. If you develop closed-angle glaucoma, your symptoms will develop rapidly and will be extremely obvious. These include:
Severe eye pain
If you experience any of these symptoms you should make an immediate appointment with your eye doctor. Prompt action to lower the pressure in your eyes will be needed before it causes permanent damage to your vision.
It is important to be aware that glaucoma normally develops in both eyes, although not necessarily at the same rate. Also, any vision loss as a result of glaucoma cannot be restored.
Glaucoma treatment is focused on stopping the progression of the condition in order to preserve your sight. Your eye doctor will make a recommendation for treatment based on the type of glaucoma you have been diagnosed with.
Eyedrops. There are some types of eye drops that can successfully be used to lower the pressure inside the eyes. As such, eye drops are usually the first type of eyedrop recommended for patients with open-angle glaucoma. These must be taken as directed, and your eye doctor will see you regularly to check that they are working and reducing your intraocular pressure.
Laser treatment. In this treatment, which is normally recommended for closed-angle glaucoma, the laser energy is used to rapidly remove blockages from the drainage channels so that the fluid can drain out and the pressure in the eye quickly reduces. Anesthetic eye drops are given beforehand to ensure that it isn’t painful.
Surgery. If eye drops and laser treatment are unsuccessful, you may need to undergo surgery which involves your eye doctor making incisions into the drainage channels to remove blockages and draining fluid away to drop the pressure inside your eyes. Surgery is normally a last resort.
If you have concerns about glaucoma, don’t hesitate to speak to our professional and knowledgeable eye care team. Call our office in Bedford, IN today.