How to Avoid the Leading Cause of Blindness

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world.  Glaucoma causes damage to your eye's optic nerve and gets worse over time. If the damage to the optic nerve continues, glaucoma can lead to permanent blindness. Vision lost from glaucoma cannot be restored.

Glaucoma is caused by a buildup of pressure in the eye.  In the front of the eye is a space called the anterior chamber.  A clear fluid flows continuously in and out of the chamber and nourishes nearby tissues.  Normally, the fluid, called aqueous humor, flows out of your eye through a mesh-like channel.  If this channel gets blocked, the liquid builds up. That's what causes glaucoma.

The increased pressure, called intraocular pressure, can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain.  Without treatment, glaucoma can cause total permanent blindness within a few years.

What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma typically causes no pain and produces no symptoms in the early stages.  The first sign is often a loss of peripheral, or side, vision.

How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?

A comprehensive eye exam is very important.  A loss of peripheral vision can be a sign of glaucoma and a visual field test measures your peripheral (side) vision. Detecting glaucoma early is a reason you should have a complete exam with an eye specialist every 1 to 2 years.

During a comprehensive eye exam, your ophthalmologist can:

  • Measure the pressure in your eye,
  • Inspect your eye's drainage angle (gonioscopy),
  • Inspect your optic nerve (ophthalmoscopy),
  • Test your peripheral, or side, vision (visual field test)

The eye is firm and round, like a basketball.  The eye's tone and shape are maintained by a pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure), which normally ranges between 8 millimeters and 22 millimeters of mercury.  The average eye pressure is 15 mm/Hg.  A tonometry test measures the pressure inside your eye. Intraocular pressure increases whether either too much fluid is produced in the eye or the drainage or outflow channels (traubecular network) of the eye becomes blocked.  A certain level of eye pressure may be high for one person but normal for another.

Ocular hypertension means the pressure in your eye is higher than normal. An eye pressure of 21 mm/Hg or higher signifies ocular hypertension. 4.5% to 9.4% of Americans have ocular hypertension, which increases the risk of glaucoma.

What is the Treatment for Glaucoma?

Lost vision cannot be restored. However, lowering eye pressure can help preserve the sight you have. Glaucoma is usually treated with eyedrops, although lasers and surgery can also be used.

Patients with severe ocular hypertension may require surgery. Conventional surgery makes a new opening for fluid to leave the eye (trabeculectomy).  Conventional surgery is about 60% to 80% effective in lowering eye pressure.

Have Questions about Glaucoma?

We will be happy to answer your questions about glaucoma. You can call us at 845-802-0047.