Glaucoma - What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness among adults in the United States. About two million Americans have glaucoma, and half of them don't even know it. That's because glaucoma often has no symptoms. Vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented by early detection and proper treatment.

There are several kinds of glaucoma, and they are all caused by an increase in the amount of fluid inside the eye. Increased fluid causes a build-up of pressure in the eye. At first, this increased pressure damages only those parts of the eye which enable you to see on each side. In the final stages of the disease, the nerves that permit front vision are damaged, and all sight is gone.

The most common kind of glaucoma is called chronic glaucoma. It is a slowly developing condition that can rob victims of their sight without causing any symptoms at all. Glaucoma also may be present at birth or be caused by some other eye problem. In some cases it comes on suddenly with very noticeable symptoms.

There are several kinds of glaucoma, and they are all caused by an increase in the amount of fluid inside the eye. Increased fluid causes a build-up of pressure in the eye. At first, this increased pressure damages only those parts of the eye which enable you to see on each side. In the final stages of the disease, the nerves that permit front vision are damaged, and all sight is gone.

The most common kind of glaucoma is called chronic glaucoma. It is a slowly developing condition that can rob victims of their sight without causing any symptoms at all. Glaucoma also may be present at birth or be caused by some other eye problem. In some cases it comes on suddenly with very noticeable symptoms.

Who can get glaucoma?

Glaucoma often runs in families. People with a relative who had the disease are more likely to get it. The disease usually does not develop before the age of 35. The chance of getting glaucoma increases with age. People who are very nearsighted, farsighted or who have diabetes are more likely to develop glaucoma. It's also more common among black people than white people, and among people with high blood pressure.

How do we find out if you have glaucoma?

Your eye pressures are checked and the eye nerve is examined. Special tests are done to find out if your nerve has been damaged. The most reliable tests are now the OCT Scanner and the Nerve Fiber Analyzer - GDx (both quick and painless tests) available in our office. The older Visual Fields test, along with the OCT Scanner and Nerve Fiber Analyzer give us a very clear idea of whether or not you have glaucoma.

How is glaucoma treated?

If glaucoma is detected in its early stages, it usually can be controlled with eye drops or medication. Laser surgery often is used and can be very effective in decreasing eye pressure to an acceptable level. In some cases, other types of surgery may be recommended to prevent pressure build-up. Patients with glaucoma must follow their eye physician's orders carefully. Treatment must be followed for life, and periodic re-examinations are very important.

What should you do?

Since most people with glaucoma have no symptoms, the key to preventing vision loss is regular examinations by an eye professional. There is a quick, painless test for glaucoma that can be done as part of a routine eye exam. Eye examinations are recommended every two years, or every year if there are other members of your family who have glaucoma.

In addition, if you experience loss of side vision, difficulty adjusting to dark rooms, blurred vision or frequent need for new glasses, you should contact an ophthalmologist/Eye M.D. immediately. The appearance of halos or rainbows around lights are also warning signs.

Don't wait for symptoms.A routine eye examination could save your vision.