What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in blindness. It is a complex eye disease often associated with elevated intraocular pressure. The production, flow, and drainage of intraocular fluid is an active, continuous process that is needed to maintain a healthy level of pressure within the eye. With glaucoma, the fluid does not flow through the trabecular meshwork properly. Over time, eye pressure increases, damaging the optic nerve fibers. The optic nerve delivers visual information from the eye to the brain like a telephone cable. Once the optic nerve is damaged, permanent vision loss can occur.
In the vast majority of cases, especially in the early stages of the disease, there are few signs or symptoms. Glaucoma usually occurs in both eyes, but extra fluid pressure often starts to build up in one eye first. At first, glaucoma has NO symptoms. Vision is normal, and there is no pain. If glaucoma remains untreated, people may notice that although they see things clearly in front of them, they miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. Without treatment, people with glaucoma may find that they have lost most of their side vision. It may seem as though they are looking through a tunnel. Over time, the remaining central vision may decrease until there is no vision left.
In later stages of the disease, symptoms can include:
- Slow loss of side or peripheral vision
- Hazy vision
- Eye and head pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sudden sight loss
- An inability to adjust the eye to darkened rooms
- Difficulty focusing on close work
- Rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights
- Frequent need to change eyeglass prescriptions
Who Is At Risk Of Developing Glaucoma?
While everyone is at risk of developing glaucoma, some demographic groups are more likely to be affected by the disease. If you are Hispanic, African American, over the age of 60, or have a family history of glaucoma, you have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. For example, glaucoma is fifteen times more likely to cause blindness in African Americans than caucasians.
People with pre-existing conditions like diabetes or hypertension are also more likely to suffer from glaucoma.
Dr. Amanda Baden, one of our optometrists who specializes in glaucoma diagnosis and treatment, explains why glaucoma is so important to be aware of.
Be compliant with your medications and use as prescribed. When applying your drops, wait ten minutes in between medications to allow time for absorption. Apply light pressure to the inside of your eye at the tear duct for a full minute after inserting a drop. This will prevent the medication from draining into your nasal cavity and increases it’s effectiveness by up to 50%. Use the index finger of your non-dominant hand to open the lower lid and the thumb of your dominant hand as a guide and to rest on your index finger.
The goal of frequent testing is to detect and treat vision loss or optic nerve damage before it becomes permanent. Patients who are treated for glaucoma should be seen every 3-6 months to monitor the intraocular pressure, optic nerve damage, and peripheral vision.
Glaucoma medications are used to treat elevated pressure inside the eye and can be effective in delaying the onset of glaucoma. In some cases, we may recommend surgery and likely, you will continue to use glaucoma medications even after surgery.
At first, glaucoma has no symptoms but as it remains untreated, people may notice that although they see things clearly in front of them, they miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye.
It is a complex eye disease where circulation of the fluid in the eye is disrupted.