Glaucoma affects millions of people worldwide, and is a leading cause of vision loss. Here are the basics you should know about this eye disease.
Glaucoma is associated with high internal eye pressure called IOP, which stands for intraocular pressure. Although it is unclear whether the eye pressure is the cause of the damage, or simply a confounding symptom, it is one of the key measures an eye doctor uses to screen for glaucoma. However, the ultimate diagnosis is based on a retinal exam that reveals damage to the optic nerve.
The optic nerve extends from the back of the eye to the brain, sending the visual information that your eye picks up, so you can see. Optic nerve damage can lead to serious loss of eyesight, low vision or even blindness if it is not successfully managed.
Glaucoma typically causes deterioration from the outside cells toward the inside nerve fibers of the optic nerve. During the early stages of glaucoma, there are no symptoms. There is no pain, no vision loss, and ocular hypertension (internal eye pressure) is not something that can be felt. In fact, if a person comes for an eye exam complaining of “pressure in my eyes” it is usually not glaucoma.
As the disease progresses, peripheral vision worsens. However, since we do not rely as much on our peripheral vision, the developing tunnel vision can go unnoticed. By the time a patient comes in with severe vision impairment, their eyesight loss is often irreversible, and all we can do is prevent further deterioration and provide support for low vision.
The key to a good prognosis is early detection and intervention of glaucoma.
At Saugeen Shores Family Eye Care in Port Elgin eye exams include screening for glaucoma by measuring intraocular pressure, and if indicated will follow up with a diagnostic dilated retina exam.
Glaucoma is usually age related and has a genetic component, so even though every comprehensive eye exam should include a glaucoma screening test, you should let your optometrist know if you have a family history of glaucoma or relatives with vision loss of unknown origin.
Treatment for Glaucoma
The first line of treatment for glaucoma is usually a prescription for nightly eye drops that aim to reduce intraocular pressure. This treatment option is easy and it generally prevents disease progression successfully, but only if the patient truly sticks to the regimen. In some cases, the patient does not respond well to the eye drops, or the glaucoma was not detected early enough, and more aggressive glaucoma treatments are necessary. Laser eye surgery or conventional eye surgery may be advised to relieve eye pressure by increasing fluid drainage from the eye and/or preventing fluid production.
If loss of eyesight does occur, low vision can be addressed. There are many low vision aids available today including assistance and guidance for devices such as specialized lenses, magnifiers, and adjusting the lighting in their surroundings.
To book an eye exam including glaucoma screening, treatment for glaucoma, low vision management, or a laser surgery consult, whether for yourself or a loved one, you can call our Port Elgin eye doctor at Saugeen Shores Family Eye Care.