Glaucoma causes damage to the eye’s optic nerve. It tends to be inherited and has a tendency to present as a person ages. It becomes progressively worse if left untreated. It is frequently associated with a build-up of pressure inside the eye, referred to as intraocular pressure that can damage the optic nerve that transmits images to the brain. When the pressure buildup is ignored and the pressure continues, glaucoma can cause a permanent loss of vision within as little as a few years without intervention.
The problem is that most individuals with glaucoma have no pain or symptoms early on in the disorder, making it very important to have regular eye exams with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. An optometrist can examine, prescribe medication, diagnose, treat and manage diseases/disorders/injuries involving the visual system, and perform specific surgical procedures. In order to receive an O.D. Degree, he or she must undergo extensive training and be state licensed. An ophthalmologist is a specialist in medical and surgical eye issues who is trained to provide complete eye care from prescribing glasses to performing complex and delicate eye surgery. Many ophthalmologists are involved in scientific research regarding the causes and cures for diseases of the eye and visual problems. Most are board certified following years of training and having passed a rigorous examination given by the American Board of Ophthalmology.
Aqueous humor is produced by cells inside the eye. As it is produced, a like amount must exit through drainage for balance. If an inadequate amount flows out of the eye, pressure within the eye increases, the channel becomes blocked and glaucoma can result. The precise cause for the blockage remains unknown, however it has a genetic component. There are other causes for a blockage to occur also, such as a severe eye infection, traumatic blunt or chemical injury, inflammation, and blocked blood vessels of the eye. As a general rule, both eyes are involved; however each eye may be affected to a different degree.
There are two types of glaucoma – open or wide angle (the most common form) and angle-closure which is less common. With open angle that accounts for up to 90% of all cases, the eye appears normal but the fluid within it fails to flow properly through drainage. Symptoms generally occur in middle age and appear to have a genetic component. With the latter, buildup may be rather sudden and drainage may be less than optimal because the angle between the iris and cornea is too narrow. Pain in the eye – usually in one eye only initially – and head may occur and peripheral sight will begin to fade from the visual field. This condition requires immediate medical intervention to restore the normal aqueous outflow that will reduce pressure and prevent permanent damage. If left untreated, tunnel vision and blindness may follow.
Treatment of open/wide angle glaucoma requires reducing the eye’s pressure through drainage of the fluid. This may be done with medication. Without success, surgery and laser treatments may be appropriate. Drugs and surgery are known to have high rates of success in treating open angle glaucoma. Treatment for acute closed-angle glaucoma is generally accomplished through laser therapy.
Risk factors for glaucoma include having a family history, being nearsighted, having had serious trauma to the eye(s), being on steroid medication, and having poor vision because of other unrelated conditions. Some medications such as those for seizures, bladder control, and even over-the-counter cold remedies may increase a person’s risk. There is no way for an individual to take steps to prevent open angle glaucoma other than to being diligent having an eye exam that includes testing for glaucoma every three to five years by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. The bottom line is to protect your eyes. Make an appointment now to assure good eye health for the future. You’ll be glad you did.