Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the passages that allow fluid in the eye to drain become clogged or blocked. This results in the amount of fluid in the eye building up and causing increased pressure inside the eye. This increased pressure damages the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain. The optic nerve is the main carrier of visual information to the brain. Damage to it results in the less information sent to the brain and loss of vision.
The exact cause of glaucoma is not known and, it cannot be prevented. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. But, if detected at an early stage and treated promptly, glaucoma can usually be controlled with little or no further vision loss. That’s why regular comprehensive optometric examinations are so important. People of all ages can develop glaucoma, but it most frequently occurs in people:
- who are over over age 40
- who have a family history of glaucoma
- who are very nearsighted
- who are diabetic
- who are African American or Black
- sustained eye trauma
Of the different types of glaucoma, primary open angle glaucoma often develops gradually and painlessly, without sign or symptoms. This type of glaucoma is more common amoung blacks than whites. It can cause damage and lead to blindness more quickly in blacks, making a regular comprehensive eye examination, including tests for glaucoma, particularly important for blacks over age 35. Another type, acute angle-closure glaucoma may be accompanied by:
- blurred vision
- a loss of side vision
- appearance of colored rings around lights
- pain or redness in the eyes
Regular comprehensive eye examinations are an important means of detecting glaucoma in its early stages, and will include:
- Goldmann Tonometry – a simple and painless measurement of the pressure in the eye.
- Dilated Fundus Evaluation – an examination of the back of the eye to observe the health of the optic nerve. Optometrist will evaluate with a Volk 90 lens providing a highly magnified view and assessment of the optic nerve health.
- Humphrey Visual Field – a check for the development of abnormal blind spots or loss of optic nerve function.
- Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)- is an imaging technique that uses coherent light to capture micrometer resolution or high resolution imaging of the optic nerve health.
- Corneal pachymetry – is the process of measuring the corneal thickness of the cornea. Corneal thickness has a high correlation associated risks of glaucoma. This technique is valuable during the assessment process.
- Gonioscopy – examination of the angle of the anterior chamber of the eye. When performed evaluates the internal drainage system of the eye, potential risk of clogging or damage leading to elevated pressure within the eye.
Glaucoma can usually be treated effectively by using eye drops or other forms of treatment. In some cases surgery may be necessary. Your optometrist will provide individual treatments plans best suitable for your type of glaucoma. Unfortunately, any loss of vision from glaucoma cannot usually be restored or reversed. Early detection, prompt treatment and regular monitoring can enable you to continue your current lifestyle.