Hey Dr. Scott, What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and permanent blindness. With early detection and treatment, it Is possible to protect your eyes against serious vision loss. Glaucoma is caused by a buildup of fluid in the eye. This causes internal pressure which damages the optic nerve and can result in vision loss.
How does an eye exam check for Glaucoma?
During our thorough comprehensive eye examination there are multiple tests that are performed to determine if our guests may have glaucoma. Historically the “air puff” test has been used. Although this test is accurate, we prefer the “blue light” test to evaluate the eye pressure. Although intraocular pressure (IOP) is very important, the pressure alone doesn’t tell the whole story. Some people develop high eye pressures (ocular hypertension) and never develop glaucoma. Others will have normal eye pressures (normal-tension glaucoma) and can have advanced glaucoma.
In the end, glaucoma occurs when the optic nerve starts to show specific and progressive damage. This damage goes on to produce vision loss and potentially blindness if left unchecked. In addition to the pressure testing, dilated eye examination allows the doctor to see if the optic nerve has been damaged. Peripheral vision testing (Visual Fields) are also an important screening test because glaucoma affects the vis
ion in the periphery long before it will get to our central “fine detail” vision. Finally, optical coherence tomography (OCT) allows us to take an ultrasound of the back of the eyes and can be used to detect damage to the optic nerve or retina much earlier.
What symptoms will I experience with Glaucoma?
There are actually multiple forms of glaucoma! The most common form is open-angle glaucoma. This form of glaucoma is asymptomatic in most cases. It is often called the “sneak thief of sight” because there are no warning signs. Because there are no signs or symptoms, regular eye exams are very important!
If Glaucoma goes untreated it is possible that the optic nerve damage will progress over time. Often these changes are very slow, but they can be rapid and the vision loss is NOT reversible. This can result in painless vision loss and eventually blindness.
Symptoms for closed-angle glaucoma include:
- Sudden blurry vision
- Severe eye pain
- Sick to your stomach (nausea)
- Halos or rainbows around lights
What can I do to prevent my risk of Glaucoma?
Unfortunately, you cannot completely eliminate the risk of glaucoma. Genetics and aging are two risk factors that are out of our control. Common risk factors include:
- African Americans over the age of 40
- Everyone over the age of 60+, especially Hispanic Americans
- People with a family history of glaucoma
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
How is Glaucoma treated?
In most cases, glaucoma is managed with one or more prescription eye drops that are used on a daily basis. These drops are used to lower the eye pressure to a level that reduces the risk of optic nerve damage. Sometimes eye drops alone aren’t enough to manage this disease. In these situations, a laser treatment or other eye procedure may be necessary. With proper treatment, vision loss from glaucoma is largely preventable!
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