Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. The nerve is the cable of the eye that carries the images we see from the eyes to the brain. When damage occurs to the nerve, it will cause us to lose part of our vision, and if left untreated, blindness can result. Often, glaucoma has no symptoms, and therefore it is very important that it is detected early. Early detection and treatment are the keys to preventing blindness from glaucoma.
In the most common form of glaucoma, eye pressure builds up slowly over time. Often, there are no symptoms. This is the open angle form of the condition. The risk of developing the disease increases with age. The less common form of glaucoma is angle closure or narrow angle glaucoma. In this condition, the eye pressure builds up quickly due to the crowded internal drainage system and can cause a painful red eye with blurred vision.
Everyone should have a thorough glaucoma exam around age 40, then every two years thereafter. Yearly exams are recommended at age 65. If you are at higher risk (i.e., family history, myopia, high eye pressures, high risk medications, history of eye trauma, etc.), you should be checked every year. Sight loss is irreversible from glaucoma. However, early detection and treatment can maintain vision. The diagnosis of glaucoma can be made by the ophthalmologist during an office evaluation. Among the tools that we have available to diagnose and manage this condition are:
- intraocular pressure checks
- corneal thickness measurements
- visual field testing
- optic nerve head and retinal tomograms (HRT & OCT)
- digital stereo optic disc photography
All of these testing modalities are available and performed in our office in an efficient outpatient setting.
Glaucoma can be treated with medications and/or surgery. Laser surgery has become an increasingly used treatment for patients with glaucoma, and in some individuals, can be used instead of eye drops. Laser treatments are available at our office. Your ophthalmologist will discuss and recommend which treatment option is best for you.