Glaucoma is one of the most common eye conditions in the world. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to irreversible vision loss.
There is no cure for glaucoma, but treatment can significantly slow the disorder’s progress to decrease or prevent vision loss. Keep reading to learn if you may be at increased risk of developing glaucoma!
The Importance of Routine Eye Exams
Glaucoma is called the silent thief of sight because it often doesn’t show any noticeable symptoms until the condition has significantly advanced. In those who have glaucoma, any damage to the vision is permanent and cannot be reversed.
The best way to prevent vision loss from glaucoma is by getting regular eye exams. Your eye doctor can examine your eyes to find signs of glaucoma in the early stages before you experience any symptoms.
If caught early, your eye doctor can begin treatment and prevent any vision loss from occurring. If you have certain risk factors for glaucoma, your eye doctor may want to see you more frequently.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is what sends information from your eye to your brain to form an image for you to see.
Peripheral vision is often the first part of your vision to be damaged by glaucoma. Peripheral vision is what you can see out of the corner of your eye.
Glaucoma is caused by increased intraocular pressure or IOP. Your eye is constantly cycling fluid.
Fluid is being created inside your eye, and then that fluid must flow out of your eye to maintain a healthy eye pressure level. When the natural drainage channels restrict the outflow of fluid, the fluid begins to build up.
When this happens, the eye pressure increases. Consistently increased eye pressure can damage the nerve slowly over time.
In open-angle glaucoma is one of the most common types of glaucoma. In this type of glaucoma, the angle of your eye is open, which is located between the iris and cornea.
Fluid must move through this angle before getting to the drainage channel to flow out of your eye. The porous tissue that makes up the drainage channel is called the trabecular meshwork.
In open-angle glaucoma, although the angle is open, the trabecular meshwork blocks the outflow of fluid. This form of glaucoma progresses slowly over time.
Angle-closure glaucoma occurs when the iris moves forward to narrow the angle formed by the cornea and iris. This form of glaucoma has very immediate symptoms, including eye pain, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Angle-closure glaucoma is often considered a vision-threatening emergency. Timely treatment can prevent vision loss if the eye pressure is relieved quickly.
The best way to prevent vision loss from any type of glaucoma is by visiting your eye doctor routinely. Your eye doctor can monitor your eyes for any changes and prescribe treatment if needed.
Several factors can put you at higher risk for glaucoma. These factors include:
- High blood pressure
- Being over 60
- Being of African, Asian, or Latinx descent
- A family history of glaucoma
- Having thin corneas
Your eye doctor will ask you about your medical and family history during your routine eye exams. This will help them determine which eye conditions you may be at risk for.
It is important to disclose a family history of any eye disease. All this information will help your eye doctor assess your risk and determine how often you need to be seen.
Even if you are considered low-risk for glaucoma, you should have an eye exam regularly. Your eye doctor will be able to recommend how often you need to have your eyes examined based on your risk.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your eye doctor can diagnose glaucoma during routine eye exams through a thorough examination and testing. One way eye doctors detect glaucoma is by testing your eye pressure.
High eye pressure can indicate glaucoma, but it does not necessarily mean you have glaucoma. If your eye pressure is high, your eye doctor will use special imaging equipment to examine your optic nerve.
When looking at your optic nerve, they will be able to see if the high pressure has caused any damage. Your eye doctor will evaluate a variety of factors to diagnose glaucoma.
Eye doctors use many different methods to treat glaucoma. Often, the first method of treatment is prescription eye drops.
These eye drops are used to help lower your eye pressure. If you are prescribed pressure-lowering drops, you must take them consistently to prevent further damage to the optic nerve.
Eye doctors also perform glaucoma surgeries and laser procedures to help lower eye pressure. Many of these treatments aim to increase the outflow of fluid.
Your eye doctor will be able to recommend treatment based on the severity of your condition. The ultimate goal of any glaucoma treatment is to lower the eye pressure, which will prevent any further damage to the optic nerve.
Do you want to learn more about glaucoma or see if you could be at risk for the eye condition? Schedule an appointment at New England Eye Center in Boston, MA, today!