Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve, because of increased pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure. This pressure can seriously damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to your brain. Because the optic nerve cannot regenerate, any vision lost is permanent.
If left untreated, glaucoma can cause total permanent blindness.
Glaucoma is a progressive eye condition and is a common cause of irreversible blindness. Glaucoma normally results from elevated intraocular pressure, but a subgroup of these patients actually have normal intraocular pressure. There are different types of glaucoma, and each type has varying symptoms.
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type. It’s a result of clogged drainage canals in the eye causing increased intraocular pressure and subsequent damage to the optic nerve. Unfortunately, you cannot feel or realize that your eye pressure is elevated unless it is checked by an eye doctor. Thus, many people walk around with glaucoma and don’t realize it. For this reason, we participate in free community health fair screenings to check people’s eye pressure.
Glaucoma is known as the “vision thief” because the symptoms can sneak up on you. Some people are not diagnosed with glaucoma until they start losing their vision and visit to our office.
Narrow-angle glaucoma occurs suddenly when fluid builds up behind the iris, which causes a sudden, dangerous increase in intraocular pressure. Within a few hours, the optic nerve can be damaged, and if not treated in six to 12 hours, it can cause severe vision loss, blindness, or permanently dilated pupils.
Narrow-angle glaucoma is a medical emergency, and the symptoms strike quickly:
Secondary Glaucoma and Other Forms
Secondary glaucoma refers to any form of glaucoma in which there’s an identifiable cause of enhanced eye pressure, resulting in vision loss and optic nerve damage. Like primary glaucoma, secondary glaucoma can occur in one or both eyes. Secondary glaucoma may be caused by eye injuries, certain medications such as prednisone, inflammation, and advanced cases of cataract or diabetes.
Most people with glaucoma don’t show early symptoms, but the first sign is often loss of peripheral vision.
Glaucoma is typically inherited and occurs in adults over the age of 40. If you have a family history of Glaucoma or if you’re over the age of 40, you should consider getting a complete eye exam every two years or annually after age 50.
In some cases, the pressure inside the eye can rise to extreme levels rapidly, causing sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision, or halos and light sensitivity.
If you have any of the following symptoms, seek medical care immediately:
Glaucoma tests are brief and painless. During your eye exam, your doctor will do the following:
If these tests are abnormal the doctor will obtain additional tests such as an “optic nerve scan” and a visual field test. Though glaucoma is observed primarily in adults over age 40, young adults, children, and even infants can have glaucoma. There is no cure, but if diagnosed and treated early, it’s possible to control the disease.
The type of treatment depends on the cause of the disease, but treatment options usually include eye drop medications, laser surgery, or conventional surgery. Lowering eye pressure can help preserve remaining eyesight.
Most people with glaucoma who follow their treatment plan and have regular eye exams don’t experience significant vision loss. There are different treatment options that will help lower pressure in the eye, such as prescription eye drops, laser surgery, or microsurgery.
Like with any medical procedure, it’s important to remember there are risks and benefits. Before undergoing treatment, be sure to have your doctor or surgeon clearly explain each procedure as well as effective alternatives.
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