Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the retina with the brain to produce sight. It is often caused by fluid build-up on the front part of the eye that causes increased eye pressure and can damage the optic nerve. Even though glaucoma is normally painless, this damage is irreversible. The best form of detection is through regular eye exams and if you suspect you are experiencing symptoms, timely treatment is critical.
Types of Glaucoma
- Open-angle glaucoma, the most common type occurs when the eye drainage system gets clogged, leading to increased eye pressure and potentially nerve damage
- Low-tension or normal-tension glaucoma, wherein the optic nerve is damaged without elevated eye pressure
- Pigmentary glaucoma, which occurs when pigment from the iris blocks the eye’s drainage canal and leads to nerve damage
- Congenital glaucoma (childhood glaucoma), may occur because the eyes’ drainage canals don’t develop properly
Acute angle-closure glaucoma produces more noticeable symptoms because there is a quick buildup of pressure. Symptoms of acute glaucoma include:
- Vision loss, blurred or narrowed field of vision.
- Severe pain in the eyes.
- Haloes or “rainbows” around lights.
- Nausea and/or vomiting.
If you notice any of these symptoms, get medical attention immediately.
If you think you might have glaucoma, come see us for a complete eye exam. Your UCHealth eye doctor will take your complete medical history and examine your eyes, and may do the following tests:
- Visual acuity test: The common eye chart test measures how well you can see at various distances.
- Refraction: This test helps your eye doctor determine the prescription you might need.
- Tonometry: This standard test measures the fluid pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure). Elevated intraocular pressure may indicate glaucoma.
- Pupil dilation: The pupil is widened with eye drops to allow a close-up exam of the eye’s retina and optic nerve. Pupil dilation allows your eye doctor to clearly see any optic nerve damage, which is important for making a diagnosis.
- Visual field: This test measures your peripheral vision. Lost peripheral vision may indicate glaucoma.
- Ocular coherence tomography (OCT): This test examines your optic nerve fiber layer, which can help your doctor make a diagnosis.
If you have glaucoma, these tests will help determine which type you have, which in turn helps dictate the treatment you need.
Risks factors for glaucoma
Anyone can develop glaucoma, so you should get regular eye exams. However, some people are at higher risk than others.
The risk factors for glaucoma are:
- Race: Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for African-Americans.
- Age: People ages 60 and older are more at risk for developing glaucoma.
- Family history: People with a family history of glaucoma are more likely to develop the disease.
- High fluid pressure inside the eyes: People with a high fluid pressure inside the eyes are at an increased risk.
Anyone in these risk groups should get a complete eye exam on a regular basis.
Complete treatment - from eye drops to surgery
Glaucoma is a serious condition, but there’s hope. Fortunately, most patients can be helped with eye drops alone. With early detection and treatment, the chance of vision loss is very low. Our team approach ensures you’ll get the right treatment for your eyes through:
Types of treatment for glaucoma
- Medicated eye drops.
- Laser surgery.
- Additional eye surgery (in rare cases).
Our surgeons are experienced in all of these procedures, including minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS).
Regular eye exams are key
Glaucoma is usually a painless disease, so you should get regular eye examinations even if you don’t have any symptoms. Let us help you keep to a regular eye health schedule, and you can prevent glaucoma and other eye diseases . Your future looks brighter indeed.
Malik Kahook, MD, Ophthalmologist | UCHealth
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