Glaucoma is often called the “sneak thief of sight”. People with glaucoma may have no pain or visible symptoms and in the early stages it is very hard to recognize. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in America. It affects between 2 and 3 million Americans each year. Many of those affected do not even know they have the disorder. Because it often has few or no warning signs until damage has already been done to the eye, untreated, glaucoma permanently damages the optic nerve, leading to blindness. If it is detected early enough, the progress of the disease can be halted with medical and surgical options. The doctors at Southwestern Eye Center provide annual eye examinations for those over the age of 40 to monitor eye diseases such as glaucoma so proper treatment can be delivered and vision loss can be avoided.
Glaucoma is known as a disease of the eye in which the pressure of fluid inside the eyeball is abnormally high. This is caused by obstructed outflow of the fluid. The increased pressure can damage the optic nerve and lead to partial or complete loss of vision.
While high eye pressure is the most important risk factor for the development and progression of glaucoma, it is still only one of many. Some other risk factors include:
Open-angle glaucoma. Also called wide-angle glaucoma, this is the most common type of glaucoma. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the drain of the eye, called the trabecular meshwork.
Angle-closure glaucoma. Also called acute or chronic angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma, this type of glaucoma is less common in the West than in Asia. Poor drainage is caused because the angle between the iris and the cornea is too narrow and is physically blocked by the iris. This condition leads to a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye.
The symptoms of glaucoma can be different for each form but in most cases people are not aware until significant damage has been done. Most of this damage does occur to the optic nerve.
Open-Angle Glaucoma Symptoms include:
Angle-Closure Glaucoma Symptoms include:
Glaucoma is diagnosed in routine eye exams. As we have stated most cases of glaucoma are typically not suspected by patients. They are usually detected in the course of an eye examination for done for some other reason, such as "routine" exams, cataract evaluations, or even follow-up of a patient with macular degeneration. It is much better to discover this before it becomes a problem.
The best defense against glaucoma is regular eye examinations by your ophthalmologist or optometrist. Early detection can mean the difference between normal and lost vision.