Glaucoma

What is Glaucoma ?
Glaucoma is a generic term for a group of disorders that are typically related by damage to the optic nerve. When the intraocular pressure is too high it put pressure on the optic nerve causing damage to the nerve fibers. The optic nerve, which is like an electric cord, sends information from the eye to the brain. It is made up of a bundle of nerve fibers. Damage to the optic nerve can initially cause blind spots at the outer edges of the field of vision called peripheral or side vision. As damage to the optic nerve gets worse, the visual field can shrink leading to tunnel vision or even loss of central vision affecting a patients ability to read.
There are three types of glaucoma:
  • Open-angle
  • Narrow-angle
  • Closed-angle

Most patients with glaucoma claim the open-angle form of the disease. This form can often be treated with eye drops or laser to control intraocular pressures. However, left uncontrolled open angle glaucoma can cause insideous effects on vision.

Narrow-angle glaucoma should be carefully watched by an Ophthalmologist. Although narrow angle glaucoma can often be treated in the same manner as open angle, it can lead to angle closure, which can be painful and dangerous.

Closed-angle glaucoma occurs rapidly and suddenly. Patients with closed angle glaucoma often find themselves in the clinic or hospital in an emergency situation. The eye can be very painful and often times the patient is nauseous. This type of glaucoma can cause a great deal of damage to the optic nerve in a short period of time. Someone experiencing an angle closure attack should be seen immediately by an Ophthalmoogist for proper treatment of the disease.
Who gets Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an important cause of blindness in the United States. At least two million Americans have glaucoma. Almost 900,000 of these people are visually impaired due to their glaucoma. Almost 80,000 Americans are legally blind due to glaucoma damage.

 

A family history of glaucoma has been found in up to 50% of patients with the most common type of glaucoma, known as primary open-angle glaucoma.

Certain types of glaucoma (traumatic glaucoma or angle recession glaucoma) can occur in people who have had a history of being hit in the eye (e.g. soccer ball). Not only can they get a rise in pressure initially after the injury, but they also may develop glaucoma years later. Yearly comprehensive eye examinations are recommended to prevent glaucoma damage.
How do I know if I have Glaucoma?
Unfortunately glaucoma is typically associated with painless and progressive loss of vision that may not be easily detected by the patient. The ONLY way to know if you have glaucoma is by examination from your eye specialist. Intraocular pressure measurements, in addition to optic nerve examination and humphrey visual field testing is the only way an eye specialist can determine if a patient has glaucoma. These tests are performed annually an are compared to previous years. Progression in these tests can be an indication of glaucoma.
See the Treatments page to learn how Glaucoma is detected and treated.

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