Glaucoma is one the leading causes of blindness in the United States. At Hampton Roads Eye Associates, we know that the importance of early detection of glaucoma through an ophthalmologist’s (eye physician’s) testing cannot be underestimated. Even with treatment, approximately 15 percent of people with glaucoma experience blindness in at least one eye within 20 years; so it is crucial to start treatment as soon as you and your ophthalmologist realize you have it. Fortunately, early detection and prompt treatment can help preserve your vision longer.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is actually a group of conditions which involve damage to the optic nerve, which is vital to good vision. The optic nerve is connected to the retina and is responsible for sending signals from your retina to your brain, which interprets these signals as the images you see. In most types of glaucoma, intraocular pressure (elevated pressure inside the eye or eyes) is associated with too much aqueous production, or the obstruction of its outflow, from the eye. The narrower the eye’s drainage angle, the harder it is for the aqueous humor (clear liquid) that circulates in the eye to flow through the angle.
What Are the Two Main Types of Glaucoma?
In open-angle glaucoma (wide-angle), the deterioration of your vision is so gradual that you may not perceive any changes until this condition is at an advanced stage. Signs and symptoms your eye doctor can detect include:
- Patchy blind spots in your central (straight-on) or peripheral vision, often seen in both eyes.
- Tunnel vision at an advanced stage.
In closed-angle glaucoma (acute, chronic or narrow-angle), drainage of eye fluid is hindered by the angle of the structures of the eye; they obstruct the natural flow. This type of glaucoma occurs less often, but acute angle-closure glaucoma does have distinct symptoms requiring immediate attention from your ophthalmologist, such as:
- Eye pain, blurred vision and/or redness.
- Seeing a “halo” around lights.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Severe headache.
Who Is Susceptible to Glaucoma?
Since most cases of glaucoma present with no obvious signs or symptoms until later in the disease, it is important to know when you are at risk. Risk factors indicating the need for glaucoma testing in patients over age 40 include:
- Patients who have vision problems such as nearsightedness, as well as those who have sustained an eye injury or had certain types of eye surgery.
- Patients with health risks such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia.
- Patients with a family history of glaucoma.
- Patients with any ocular (eye) pain, redness or difficulty with peripheral (side) vision.
Is Glaucoma Treatable?
There is no cure for glaucoma, but it is treatable. Treatment is tailored to glaucoma patients depending upon how early their cases are detected and the relative stage to which the disease has progressed. Easy-to-use drops are often prescribed to treat early glaucoma. Sometimes laser surgery or regular surgery is required to open the angle so fluid in the eye can flow out. The main treatment objective for glaucoma is relieving high pressure in the eye while saving the patient’s vision.
At Hampton Roads Eye Associates in Newport News, we are glad to support your eye health by including glaucoma testing in your annual vision exam. Please contact us at (757) 643-8800 for your yearly visual examination or schedule your appointment online.