- Open-angle Glaucoma
- Angle-closure Glaucoma
- Risk Factors
- Diagnosing Glaucoma
- Glaucoma Treatments
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the United States and can affect patients of all ages, many of who do not experience any symptoms and may not be aware that they have the disease. Glaucoma actually refers to a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve as a result of increased pressure within the eye, but can also be caused by a severe eye infection, injury, blocked blood vessel or inflammatory conditions of the eye.
There are two main types of glaucoma: open-angle and angle-closure. Both types involve abnormalities with the drainage angle that helps aqueous fluid flow from the eye, which results in increased pressure within the eye that can cause permanent damage and progressive vision loss. A simple painless eye exam can detect the disease. With early detection and treatment, glaucoma can usually be controlled and blindness prevented.
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Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease, and involves fluid in the eye not draining properly through the trabecular meshwork, either as a result of excessive aqueous production or a blockage within the meshwork. These drainage abnormalities cause the internal eye pressure to increase as fluid builds up, which then deprives the optic nerve of oxygen and nutrients and leads to irreversible optic nerve damage.
The damage caused by open-angle glaucoma is often so slow that patients may not notice any changes to their vision until significant damage has occurred.
Also known as narrow-angle glaucoma, this condition affects only about one out of every 10 glaucoma patients, and involves a blockage in the trabecular meshwork that can lead to symptoms such as redness, discomfort, blurred vision or headaches. This blockage may develop as a result of structural abnormalities, hyperopia or tumors within the eye.
This type of glaucoma can develop suddenly or gradually, depending on the cause. Most patients who develop angle-closure glaucoma are born with narrow drainage angles that put them at a higher risk for developing this condition.
Known as a silent disease, glaucoma often causes no pain or other noticeable symptoms until the disease has progressed significantly. Later stages of the disease may cause a gradual loss of peripheral vision, as well as eye pain, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, halos around lights and other troubling symptoms. The type and severity of symptoms depends on the type of glaucoma and the patient's eye and overall health.
Glaucoma can affect anyone from newborn infants to the elderly. It has been estimated that up to 3 million Americans have glaucoma. At least half of those people do not know they have it because glaucoma usually has no symptoms. People who are at a greater risk for glaucoma usually have the following conditions:
- At least 45 years old without regular eye exams
- A family history of glaucoma
- Abnormally high eye pressure
- African descent
- Previous eye injury
- Regular, long term use of cortisone/steroid products
To detect glaucoma, your physician will test your visual acuity, visual field, dilate your pupils and test the pressure in your eye. Regular and complete eye exams help to monitor the changes in your eyesight and will help to determine whether you may develop glaucoma. Many people do not learn they have glaucoma until they undergo a routine eye exam. A dilated eye exam is recommended at least once every two years, especially for patients at an increased risk of developing glaucoma.
In addition to a complete eye exam, your doctor may also perform other tests such as tonometry, to measure the pressure inside the eye, and pachymetry, to measure the thickness of the cornea.
At Ophthalmology Associates of the Valley, we provide comprehensive glaucoma care to diagnose your condition in its earliest stages, prescribe effective treatment options and promote overall eye health and preventive care. Our main focus is to slow the progression of the disease so that patients can continue to enjoy clear vision free of symptoms.
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call 818.990.3623.