General Information About Glaucoma
What Symptoms are Associated with Glaucoma?
There are two major categories of glaucoma: Chronic and Acute. Most cases of glaucoma are Chronic Open Angle Glaucoma. In this form of glaucoma there are usually no early symptoms. Early in the disease, peripheral vision may be lost, however visual loss may occur slowly, so gradually and painlessly that no change is noticed until is quite severe.
A less common form of glaucoma is Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma. In this disease, the drainage system of the eye suddenly becomes completely blocked. In Acute glaucoma, symptoms include decrease in vision, pain, redness of the eye, haloes around lights and even nausea and vomiting.
A complete eye evaluation is necessary to detect the presence of early glaucoma and to identify those individuals who are at risk of developing glaucoma.
Who is Most Likely To Develop Glaucoma?
Older individuals, individuals with a family history of glaucoma and individuals with other eye diseases are at a greater risk of developing this disease.
Glaucoma is not common before the age of 40, but increases in prevalence with each decade thereafter. The risk of glaucoma is five times greater for an elderly person than it is for a middle-aged individual. A family history of glaucoma is also important because the disease can be inherited. The risk of developing the disease is six to seven times greater if there is a history of glaucoma in the family. African Americans have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Persons with cataracts, diabetes, a history of injury to the eye, or severe far-sightedness are also more likely to develop glaucoma. Certain medications may also increase the risk of developing glaucoma.
How is Glaucoma Detected?
Eye specialists have developed a number of very accurate and reliable instruments for checking eye pressure. These instruments are called tonometers.
In our office, one of these instruments is used on every complete examination to rule out the possibility of increased eye pressure. This “glaucoma test” takes only a few moments and is painless. A well-trained eye specialist can also identify those individuals who have evidence of glaucoma, even if the eye pressure is not elevated at the moment of the examination. Changes in the optic nerve and the drainage system of the eye enable the physician to make this determination. In addition, field of vision tests which measure the peripheral vision may be used to evaluate possible optic nerve damage.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
Glaucoma is treated by reducing the pressure in the eye to normal levels.
The most effective and commonly used medications include eye drops such as timoptic, betoptic, pilocarpine and propine. There are also some newer eye drops including iopidine and trisopt. Diamox and neptazane, medicines taken orally, are also occasionally used. Laser therapy may also be effective in lowering the pressure within the eye by improving the outflow of fluid. In some cases laser treatment may be the most effective initial treatment for glaucoma. Laser therapy is performed as an out-patient procedure and is essentially painless.
In cases of severe glaucoma where pressure cannot be regulated medically or with laser therapy, actual surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgical treatment involves making a new drainage system for the eye. This treatment is extremely successful in reducing pressure, but as with any surgery, there are risks. Complications are rare, but can occur in an eye weakened by glaucoma. It is for this reason that surgery is advised only in the most severe forms of glaucoma.
For more information and a video tutorial please click on the instructional video below.
Of the millions of people with glaucoma only a few will have narrow angle glaucoma. This very specific form requires more urgent laser treatment than the more common open angle glaucoma discussed above. Please click on the informational video below to learn more about this vision saving treatment.
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