Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, especially for older people. It is a condition in which the optic nerve is damaged, which can lead to vision loss. It can be associated with elevated intraocular pressure.
Types of Glaucoma
There are several types of glaucoma with two main types: open-angle and angle-closure.
- Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma where the fluid in the eye drains too slowly through the network of tiny drainage channels, known as the trabecula. The pressure in the eye increases as the fluid in the eye continues to build. Loss of vision occurs gradually and the vision loss is not always noticed until it becomes irreversible. About 95 percent of glaucoma cases are due to open-angle glaucoma.
- Angle-Closure Glaucoma occurs when the tiny drainage channels, known as the trabecula, become blocked which then causes a sudden rise in pressure in the eye. This condition is not common but when it occurs it requires immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
Many patients do not experience any symptoms during the early stages of glaucoma, including no pain and no vision loss. This makes it difficult for many patients to know if they have the disease. But as glaucoma progresses, patients may experience some of the following symptoms:
- A loss of peripheral or side vision
- Sudden eye pain
- Blurred vision
- The appearance of halos around lights
- Tunnel vision
- Red eyes
Because there are usually no symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, having a complete eye examination is the best way to detect this condition. During a glaucoma evaluation, we will:
- Measure your intraocular pressure (tonometry),
- Evaluate possible optic nerve damage (ophthalmoscopy),
- Test the peripheral vision for each eye (visual field testing, or perimetry),
- Photograph the optic nerve.
Treatment for Glaucoma
There is no cure for glaucoma; and vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be reversed. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to blindness. However, early detection and treatment can preserve existing sight and prevent further loss of sight. Treatment to lower intraocular pressure may include prescription eye drops, laser treatments or surgery. Again, the best way to detect glaucoma is to have a complete eye examination.