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 and this causes 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.
What causes glaucoma?
The interior of our eyes is filled with fluid, known as aqueous humor. When your eye is normal, 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. As glaucoma remains 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?
Yes. Although you will never be cured of glaucoma, treatment often can control it. This makes early diagnosis and treatment important to protect your sight.
It is in the form of eye drops and pills. Some cause the eye to make less fluid. Others lower pressure by helping fluid drain from the eye.
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.
Is Glaucoma Preventible?
There isn’t a way to prevent glaucoma, plus the disease can be progressing without showing signs to the person. In the most common version of glaucoma, 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, you can prevent significant vision damage through regular eye exams and early treatment with the team at our three Richens Eye Centers. 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 is 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. It 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: 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. However, treatment with our experienced team at Richens Eye Center can lower the pressure in the eye and stem vision loss.
Unfortunately, even with treatment, about 15 percent of people with glaucoma become blind in at least one eye.
Schedule a consultation
To schedule a consultation or to learn more information about Glaucoma, contact us today at any of our three locations. We proudly serve St. George, UT, Mesquite, NV, and the surrounding areas.