Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Glaucoma can affect patients of all ages. Known as the “sneak thief of sight”, many people affected with glaucoma do not experience any symptoms and may not be aware that they have the disease until they have lost a significant amount of vision. With early detection and treatment, eyes can be protected against the serious loss of vision or blindness.
Causes of Glaucoma
Glaucoma develops when the pressure inside the eye rises, damaging the optic nerve and causing vision loss. The condition often develops over many years without causing pain or other noticeable symptoms – so you may not experience vision loss until the disease has progressed.
Risk Factors for Glaucoma
There are several factors that contribute to the risk of developing glaucoma. They include some of the following:
- Family history of glaucoma
- Thin corneas
- Elevated eye pressure
- Low blood pressure
- Eye injury
- Eye condition
Symptoms of Glaucoma
Symptoms of glaucoma vary depending on the type of glaucoma. Glaucoma can develop in one eye or both eyes. Some of the symptoms of glaucoma are as follows:
- Blurred vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Blank spots in the vision
- Severe eye pain
- Halo effects around lights
- Painful or reddened eyes
Diagnosis of Glaucoma
The diagnosis of glaucoma is determined after a comprehensive medical examination of the eye and a review of the patient’s medical history. Tests will be conducted to confirm the diagnosis. Testing may include some of the following:
- Dilated eye examination
- Visual field test (perimetry)
- Retinal evaluation
- Visual acuity test
Treatment of Glaucoma
Once glaucoma has been diagnosed, treatment should begin as soon as possible to help minimize the risk of permanent vision loss. There is no cure for glaucoma, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing further damage from occurring. The best treatment for your individual case depends on the type of glaucoma and severity of the disease, and can be discussed with your doctor. Some of the treatment methods for glaucoma are as follows:
- Medication, either as eye drops or oral medication, is used to either reduce fluid production in the front of the eye or to help drain excess fluid. Side effects of the medication may result in redness, stinging, irritation or blurry vision. Patients should advise their doctor about any medications they are taking or any allergies they have to minimize the risk of side effects. While glaucoma often has no symptoms, regular use of the medication is needed to keep the eye pressure under control.
- Laser surgery for glaucoma aims to increase the outflow of fluid from the eye or eliminate fluid blockages through laser trabeculoplasty, iridotomy or cyclophotocoagulation.
- Surgery to create a new channel to drain fluid from the eye and reduce the pressure that causes glaucoma in a procedure known as trabeculectomy. Surgery is performed only after medication and laser procedures have been unsuccessful.