Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye conditions that cause blindness, specifically those that cause damage to the optic nerve of the eye. The optic nerve carries messages from the retina to the brain to create the images you see. Optic nerve damage can lead to vision distortion, vision loss and blindness. The complex disease of glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness, affecting about 3 million Americans.
There are 2 main forms of glaucoma: open-angle and angle-closure. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma affecting 95% of individuals. Open-angle glaucoma is known as the “silent blinder” as it initially has no symptoms which is why approximately 50% of those with glaucoma do not even realize they have the disease. As the disease progresses, peripheral vision is affected and can be lost without intervention. Angle-closure glaucoma occurs as either acute or chronic. Acute angle-glaucoma occurs when the normal flow of aqueous humor (the clear fluid filling the space in the front of the eyeball) between the iris and lens of the eye is suddenly blocked. Symptoms may include severe pain, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and a rainbow halo appearing around lights. This form of glaucoma is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment because blindness can result within 1 to 2 days after symptoms. Chronic angle-closure glaucoma progresses slowly causing the iris, the colored part of the eye, to block the eye’s drainage angle causing a range of symptoms that can lead to permanent eye damage.
A common misconception is that high eye pressure causes glaucoma but that is not true. High eye blood pressure is merely a risk factor; optic nerve damage usually occurs as an effect of high intraocular pressure; however, glaucoma can be diagnosed with normal or even lower than normal eye pressure. Currently, eye pressure is the only known modifiable risk factor for glaucoma and is the target of current treatment options. Other risk factors include family history of glaucoma, age, thinness of cornea, abnormal shape or size in the appearance of the optic nerve, high myopia (nearsightedness), diabetes, eye surgery or injury, high blood pressure and use of corticosteroids.
Currently there is no cure for glaucoma, but can glaucoma be stopped? Through early diagnosis and prompt treatment, glaucoma can be controlled before vision loss or irreversible blindness occurs. Depending upon different factors such as age and severity of the glaucoma, treatment may include medications or possible surgery to lower eye pressure.
To learn more about glaucoma prevention and how to preserve your vision in the early stages of glaucoma, contact Pendleton Eye to get started with a comprehensive eye exam from one of our board-certified ophthalmologists. Our team at Pendleton Eye is experienced in diagnosing and controlling glaucoma. To schedule your eye exam, including a glaucoma screening, call 760-758-2008 or book an appointment here WEBSITE.