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Glaucoma Is The 2nd Leading Cause Of Blindness

Early detection & treatment are important.

What Is Glaucoma?

Eye Diagram
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases. These diseases cause damage to the optic nerve and result in vision loss. The disorders can be roughly divided into two main categories: “open angle” and “closed angle” glaucoma. Open angle glaucoma is painless, tends to develop slowly over time and often has no symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly. Closed angle glaucoma is usually chronic and asymptomatic. However, it can present all of a sudden as well. The symptoms can include sudden eye pain, mid-dilated pupil, blurred vision, redness, and nausea resulting from a sudden spike in intraocular pressure. Glaucoma can permanently damage vision in the affected eye, first by decreasing peripheral vision (side vision), and then potentially leading to blindness if left untreated. For these reasons, it’s important to have your eyes examined by an optometrist regularly, especially if you’re in one of the risk groups associated with glaucoma.

What Causes Glaucoma?

Anyone can develop glaucoma. Some people, however, are more susceptible than others. Listed below are groups of people at higher risk:

  • Some individuals over age 40
  • Everyone over age 60
  • People with a family history of glaucoma

A comprehensive eye exam can reveal more risk factors, such as high eye pressure, corneal thinning, and abnormal optic nerve anatomy.

What Are The Symptoms of Glaucoma?

For most people, there are usually few or no symptoms of glaucoma. The first sign of glaucoma is often the loss of peripheral or side vision, which can go unnoticed until late in the disease. This is why glaucoma is often called the silent thief or sneak thief of vision.

Detecting glaucoma early is very important. For this reason, you should have a comprehensive exam with an optometrist every year or as often as your optometrist recommends.

Symptoms may vary depending on the stage of the condition. Open angle glaucoma symptoms may include the following:

  • Blind spots in your peripheral (or side) or central vision, in one or both eyes
  • Tunnel vision

Closed angle glaucoma symptoms may include the following:

  • Severe headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Suddenly decreased vision
  • Redness in the eye
  • Eye that looks hazy (particularly in infants)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the eye
  • Narrowing of vision (tunnel vision)

Acute closed angle glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you are experiencing acute closed angle glaucoma symptoms such as severe headache, eye pain, and blurred vision, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Normal vision

Normal vision

Vision with Glaucoma

Vision with Glaucoma

Images courtesy of National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health

How Do We Diagnose Glaucoma?

To diagnose glaucoma, an eye doctor will test your vision and examine your eyes. The eye exam typically focuses on the optic nerve, which has a particular appearance in glaucoma. Photographs of the optic nerve using equipment such as our Optos optomap® and VISUCAM® can often be very helpful. Glaucoma tests are quick and painless.

Some of the tests our optometrist will perform include the following:

Visual acuity test – This eye test measures how well you see at various distances.

Visual field test – This test measures your peripheral (side vision). Lost peripheral vision is an indicator of glaucoma.

Dilated eye exam – In this exam, drops are placed in your eyes to dilate the pupils so more of your eye can be examined. Optometrists use a special magnifying lens to look at your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems.

Tonometry – is the measurement of pressure inside the eye by using an instrument called a tonometer.

Pachymetry – Our optometrists use an ultrasonic wave instrument to measure the thickness of your cornea.

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How Do We Treat Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is most commonly treated with various combinations of eye drops, laser trabeculoplasty, and microsurgery. Every situation is unique, though, so it is important to diagnose and begin treatment early. Talk to your eye doctor to find out which glaucoma treatment is right for you.