Glaucoma – the American Optometric Association

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that lead to progressive damage to the nerve that connects the eye to the brain called the optic nerve. People with glaucoma can lose nerve tissue, resulting in vision loss.

The optic nerve is a bundle of about 1 million individual nerve fibers that transmits the visual signals from the eye to the brain. In the most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, the fluid pressure inside the eye increases. This increase in pressure may cause progressive damage to the optic nerve and loss of nerve fibers. Advanced glaucoma may even lead to blindness.

Not everyone with high eye pressure will develop glaucoma, and some people with normal eye pressure will develop glaucoma. When the pressure inside a person’s eye is too high for a particular optic nerve, whatever that pressure measurement may be, glaucoma will develop.

Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It most often occurs in people over age 40, although an infant (congenital) form of glaucoma exists. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans over the age of 40 and Hispanics over the age of 60 have an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Other risk factors include thinner corneas, chronic eye inflammation and taking medications that increase the pressure in the eyes.

The most common form of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma, develops slowly and usually without any symptoms. Many people are not aware they have the condition until they have significant vision loss. Initially, glaucoma affects peripheral or side vision, but it can advance to central vision loss. If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to significant vision loss in both eyes, and may even lead to blindness.

A less common type of glaucoma, acute angle-closure glaucoma, usually occurs abruptly due to a rapid increase of pressure in the eye. Its symptoms may include severe eye pain, nausea, redness in the eye, seeing halos or colored rings around lights and blurred vision. This is an emergency condition in which severe vision loss can occur quickly; see your optometrist immediately.

Glaucoma cannot currently be prevented. But if it is diagnosed and treated early, it can usually be controlled. Medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss.

However, vision already lost to glaucoma cannot be restored. That is why the American Optometric Association recommends an annual dilated eye examination for people at risk for glaucoma. Depending on your specific condition, your doctor may recommend more frequent examinations.

What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma

There are many theories about the causes of glaucoma, but the exact cause is unknown. Although the disease is usually associated with an increase in the fluid pressure inside the eye, other theories include lack of adequate blood supply to the nerve. Following are the different types of glaucoma and their potential causes.

Risk factors

The following factors can increase the risk for developing glaucoma:

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

Glaucoma is diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Because glaucoma is a progressive disease, meaning it worsens over time, a change in the appearance of the optic nerve, a loss of nerve tissue, and a corresponding loss of vision confirm the diagnosis. Some optic nerves may resemble nerves with glaucoma, but the patients may have no other risk factors or signs of glaucoma. These patients should have routine comprehensive exams to monitor any changes.

Glaucoma testing includes:

How is glaucoma treated?

Glaucoma treatment is aimed at reducing pressure in the eye. Regular use of prescription eye drops are the most common and often the first treatment. Some cases may require systemic medications, laser treatment or other surgery. While there is not yet a cure for glaucoma, early diagnosis and continuing treatment can preserve eyesight.

Shared from the American Optometric Association

Author
David Greening David Greening, ABOC, BS(HONS) Ophth. Dispensing David is our resident optician, and has been in optics since 2002. He attained his Bachelor of Science degree in Ophthalmic Dispensing in Kent, England (2014). He has extensive experience, having managed his own practice for many years prior to arriving at Astorino & Associates Eye Center. He is a licensed American optician (ABOC) and is well-recognized for his quality of service, attention to detail, and patient care.

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