What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases involving fluid in the eye and an increase in pressure. In a normal eye, fluid exits the eye in a continuous stream. But when a person has glaucoma, the fluid is blocked from exiting, causing pressure to build in the eye. Over time, this pressure damages the optic nerve. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness across all age groups in the U.S. It is especially dangerous because most forms of glaucoma don’t exhibit any warning signs or symptoms until the patient already has permanent vision damage.
While glaucoma is traditionally treated with daily eye drops, there are other options. Learn more about glaucoma and your treatment options in these short videos.
Durysta™ Sustained-Release Glaucoma Treatment
Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgeries
What Causes Glaucoma?
The interior of our eyes is filled with fluid, known as aqueous humor. Normally, this fluid flows through the eye and exits through an area of tissue known as the trabecular meshwork. This is located where the iris and the cornea meet.
If a person has glaucoma, the trabecular meshwork develops a blockage or other damage, or the person’s eye produces too much aqueous humor. This causes pressure to build inside the eye. If it stays elevated, this pressure begins to damage the optic nerve. This deterioration will begin to show itself as the patient will notice blind spots in his or her visual field.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
At first, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms. Your vision stays normal and there is no pain. But if glaucoma goes on untreated, people may notice that although they see things clearly in front of them, they miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. Without treatment, people with glaucoma may find that they suddenly have no side vision. It may seem as though they are looking through a tunnel. Over time, the remaining forward vision may decrease until there is no vision left.
Who is at Risk of Getting Glaucoma?
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but certain factors increase a person’s risk:
- Having high intraocular pressure
- Being over age 60
- Being African-American, Asian, or Hispanic
- Having a family history of glaucoma
- Having other medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, or sickle cell anemia
- Having corneas that are thin in the center
- Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
- Having had an eye injury
- Having had certain types of eye surgery
- Long-time use of corticosteroid medications, particularly eye drops
What Treatment Options are Available for Glaucoma?
Although you will never be cured of glaucoma, treatment often can control it. This makes early diagnosis and treatment important to protect your sight.
Glaucoma medications come in the form of eye drops, pills, and an implantable 12-week sustained-release treatment called Durysta™.
Some glaucoma medications cause the eye to make less fluid. Others lower pressure by helping fluid drain from the eye. Durysta reduces intraocular pressure in patients with open-angle glaucoma, or ocular hypertension. After numbing medicine, a tiny needle is used to place the medication. As it slowly dissolves, it relieves intraocular pressure by about 30% for 12 weeks or even longer, and is covered by most insurance plans.
Minimally-Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS)
In the videos above, you can learn more about minimally-invasive glaucoma surgeries. These procedures are permanent, and can help reduce intraocular pressure, or IOP. This pressure reduction can help prevent further damage to the optic nerve.
Laser surgery helps fluid drain out of the eye. It is often done after trying medication. In many cases, you will need to keep taking glaucoma drugs even after laser surgery.
What Our Patients Have to Say
“Richens Eye Center is the BEST! Professional, courteous, complete, and knowledgeable with the most up to date technology to make you feel that you are getting the best treatment in town. Highly Recommended !!!” – Coleen A.
"Dr. Richens is one of the most caring and knowledgeable eye doctors I have ever came across in my 10 years of having eye issues and seeing multiple doctors. From start to finish my experience with her has been nothing but exceptional. I could tell she truly cared about me as a patient and went above and beyond to make sure I was being taken care of. HIGHLY recommend her for any of your eye care needs!" -Liam H.
Is Glaucoma Preventible?
There is no known way to prevent glaucoma, and the disease may progress without showing obvious daily signs. In the most common version of glaucoma — called primary open-angle glaucoma — there are no symptoms and vision loss is slow and progressive. The vision loss first occurs in a person’s peripheral vision.
While you can’t prevent glaucoma, the team at Richens Eye Center can help you prevent significant vision damage through regular eye exams and early treatment. During your regular eye exams, we can spot glaucoma early through tests that gauge the pressure within your eye. Once diagnosed, we can work to keep the pressure from building in your eye. This will limit any damage to the optic nerve. That’s why regular eye exams and early diagnosis are key to effectively treating glaucoma.
How is Glaucoma Detected?
Most people think that they have glaucoma if the pressure in their eyes is increased. This is not always true. High pressure puts you at risk for glaucoma, but may not mean that you have the disease. Whether or not you get glaucoma depends on the level of pressure that your optic nerve can tolerate without being damaged. This level is different for each person. Although normal pressure is usually between 12-21 mm Hg, a person may have glaucoma even if the pressure is in this range. That is why an eye examination is very important. To detect glaucoma, the following tests should be performed regularly: visual acuity, visual field, pupil dilation, and tonometry.
Does Glaucoma Cause Blindness?
A diagnosis of glaucoma isn’t a guarantee of future vision loss. However, if you leave your glaucoma untreated, it will eventually lead to blindness. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, trailing only macular degeneration. Even with treatment, about 15 percent of people with glaucoma become blind in at least one eye. Early detection and treatment of glaucoma with our experienced team at Richens Eye Center is the best way to lower the pressure in the eye and stem vision loss.