Glaucoma is a disease of eye that causes the pressure inside the eye to rise. This can damage the optic nerve and cause blind spots in vision. Because this happens slowly and there is no pain, a patient can be totally unaware that there is a vision threatening problem.
Glaucoma cannot be cured, nor can lost vision be replaced or regenerated. However, further visual damage can be prevented by special eye drops, medication, surgery and laser surgery.
Have you noticed concerning changes in your vision lately? Perhaps your eyesight isn't as crystal-clear as it used to be, or maybe you are having trouble seeing road signs while driving at nighttime. You might even be experiencing strange symptoms such as halos around lights or blind spots in your vision.
You may be experiencing normal vision changes as you age — or you could be noticing the beginning symptoms of a condition called glaucoma. While there are many effective treatments for this common eye condition, it can cause vision loss if left alone for too long. It's essential to get these glaucoma symptoms checked out right away. Read through the information below to learn more about glaucoma, what causes it, and what treatments your ophthalmologist may suggest.
What Is the Main Cause of Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name for several conditions that affect the optic nerve in the eye. Because the optic nerve, a combination of over one million nerve fibers, is responsible for sending vision information to the brain, damage to this area can eventually cause blindness. Patients with glaucoma often have pressure buildup inside the eye — which can result from various medical conditions or eye diseases — that presses on the optic nerve and causes damage.
The aqueous humor (the fluid in the front part of the eye) in your eye builds up over time and should drain out consistently. If it is unable to drain out, the resulting pressure inside your eyeball can hurt the optic nerve and lead to the death of nerve fibers. If all nerve fibers are eventually affected, you will lose your vision and become blind.
How Do You Get Glaucoma?
Patients may wonder if they are at risk for this disease. It usually affects people over the age of 60, but it can also affect younger patients with certain medical conditions. Though there are several reasons as to why a patient may suffer fluid buildup inside the eye, the two leading causes of glaucoma are the following:
- Primary open-angle glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is the most common as it results from an eye not being able to drain the way it should. As a result, symptoms happen gradually as pressure builds up over time. It does not cause headaches or eye pain. Patients may notice strange symptoms at first that they chalk up to normal vision changes related to aging.
- Angle-closure glaucoma: This type of glaucoma results from the patient's iris being too close to the angle where the eye is supposed to drain. If the iris blocks the drainage spot, the patient will notice sudden, painful symptoms such as blurry vision, headache, nausea, and pain. It can also cause halos or rainbows around bright lights.
Who Is at Risk for Glaucoma?
If you are concerned about your risk of developing this eye condition, speak to your ophthalmologist for a thorough assessment. Risk factors for glaucoma often involve age, medical conditions, and specific medication use. You may be at risk for developing glaucoma if you have the following factors:
- You are middle-aged or older (over 40)
- You have a family history of glaucoma
- You are of Asian, Hispanic, or African ethnicity
- You have other eye conditions such as farsightedness
- You use steroid medications such as prednisone over a long-term period of time
- You have medical conditions such as high blood pressure or migraines
Preventing glaucoma isn't always possible as some patients are simply more vulnerable to vision changes and eye diseases; however, there is a lot you can do to prevent the development of glaucoma. First, you should have your eyes examined regularly. Talk to your parents, siblings, and other close relatives to assess your risk based on your family's history of medical problems and eye diseases.
You can also reduce your risk of developing glaucoma by exercising regularly and protecting your eyes if you're playing sports such as racketball or tennis or if you work with power tools. Injuries can contribute to the development of glaucoma as well.
Unfortunately, once you've developed glaucoma, you cannot reverse the damage it has already caused. Some treatments will stop your condition from worsening, including medications and surgery.
The most common first-line treatment of glaucoma is eyedrop medication. If your ophthalmologist thinks you are a good candidate for glaucoma eye drops, you will use this medicine every day to reduce the pressure in your eyes. You may notice side effects from eye drops such as stinging, redness around your eyes, and even dry mouth. Remember that all medications have side effects, and these eye drops are helping you keep the vision you have left. Be sure to speak with your provider if your side effects are bothersome or if they seem too severe. It's also important to let your ophthalmologist know if you are taking other medications or supplements before starting on these eye drops.
If your glaucoma is severe or fairly advanced, your doctor may recommend that you have surgery to counteract the fluid buildup inside your eye. Though the idea of eye surgery may make you feel nervous, don't worry! These are common procedures used to help the eyes function better and drain the resulting fluid causing your symptoms.
One type of surgery called a trabeculoplasty is ideal for people with open-angle glaucoma. This is a laser procedure that is used to help the eye's drainage angle work more efficiently to reduce the pressure in the eye. Over time, your eye will not have as much fluid buildup, and your remaining working optic nerve fibers will be saved.
Another treatment for those with angle-closure glaucoma involves using a laser to make a small hold in the eyes' iris. This will help the iris not to completely block the drainage angle. After completing this procedure, fluid will flow out of the eye.
Get Help With Your Glaucoma in Albuquerque
Our ophthalmologists have extensive experience diagnosing and treating both major types of glaucoma. If you've noticed changes in your vision, it's essential to schedule an examination as soon as possible to determine the cause of your symptoms.
Get in touch with Southwest Eyecare in Albequerque or log onto your patient portal (if you are an existing patient) to schedule your appointment. We look forward to seeing you and helping you see better!