Glaucoma is estimated to affect around 3 million adults in the United States – a number that is predicted to grow over the coming decade. It’s just one of a range of different eye conditions that can develop during the course of our lifetime. However, it’s also one of the most serious, and without early detection and treatment, could permanently affect your vision. Here’s what you need to know about glaucoma so that you can get professional help quickly if you believe that you may be affected.
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of conditions that are characterized by excessive pressure inside the eyes. This can be caused by a range of things, from too much tear film being produced to a side effect of taking certain medications. As the pressure inside the eyes increases, there is greater force placed onto the optic nerve, which is the main nerve running between the brain and the retina at the back of the eye. The retina sends messages from the eye to the brain to determine what we can see. When damage to the optic nerve occurs, it prevents this from happening, affecting the quality of the images that we see.
Glaucoma is particularly difficult to detect since the symptoms usually develop very slowly, usually over a period of months and years. This means that oftentimes, by the time it’s detected, some damage to your vision will have already occurred. For this reason, glaucoma testing is routinely included in comprehensive eye exams.
The symptoms that you experience will also depend on the type of glaucoma that you are affected by. The most common type is open-angle glaucoma, which accounts for around 90% of cases. The slow-developing symptoms of open-angle glaucoma include:
Loss of peripheral vision
Rainbow-colored circles around lights
A small percentage of patients will develop a rare type of glaucoma called closed-angle glaucoma. This variety develops extremely quickly and should be treated as a medical emergency to prevent any permanent damage to your vision. The signs of closed-angle glaucoma include:
Severe eye pain
If you experience any of these symptoms, we recommend that you make an appointment with your eye doctor as quickly as possible.
Your eye doctor will recommend that you have a series of different tests to confirm a diagnosis of glaucoma, and to identify which type you are affected by. These tests could include:
Ophthalmoscopy – which is where special eye drops are used to dilate your eyes so that your eye doctor can look at the structures inside to detect any abnormalities.
Perimetry – also known as visual field testing, will enable your eye doctor to tell if you have lost any peripheral vision.
Pressure testing – also known as tonometry, is where a special handheld device is used to check the pressure inside your eyes. It’s not painful, but it may be momentarily uncomfortable.
Pachymetry – a test designed to assess corneal thickness. The cornea is the clear, domed front part of the eye and a cornea that is thicker than usual can cause higher intraocular pressure.
Any vision that you have lost as a result of glaucoma can’t be restored, but there are things that your eye doctor can recommend to stop the effects of glaucoma from getting worse. These include eye drops to lower the pressure inside your eyes, oral medications, and laser treatment to open up the drainage channels so that pressure is reduced. Your eye doctor will be able to recommend the most suitable treatment based on your personal requirements.
There are things that you can do to reduce the risk of developing glaucoma in the future too. Research indicates that people who live active lifestyles are less likely to suffer from glaucoma, and eye doctors recommend that you eat a healthy, balanced diet and take regular exercise to keep your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control.
Protecting your eyes is valuable too. You should make sure that you use UV-blocking sunglasses whenever you go outside, and invest in protective eyewear for sports, construction, or any other activities where your eyes could potentially be at risk.
For more information and advice about the diagnosis and prevention of glaucoma, visit True Vision Optometry in Montebello, California. Call (323) 403-4116 to schedule an appointment today.