What is Glaucoma?
Referred to as ‘the silent thief of sight,’ this blinding disease has no outward or visual symptoms. It occurs when the pressure of fluid inside the eye exceeds the pressure of the blood supply entering the eye. Over time, this slowly deprives the optic nerve of nutrients. This “choking” of the nerve happens over many years, slowly reducing the sensitivity of your peripheral (side) vision. Because it occurs so slowly, vision changes have no symptoms until years later, when deeper vision loss occurs. At this stage, up to 70% of nerve fibers in the eye have been lost and success in preventing further loss is very low.
What causes Glaucoma?
We don’t yet understand the exact mechanism, but we do know that most risk factors are genetic. There are certain types of glaucoma related to injury and systemic disease, but they are far less common than regular “open-angle” glaucoma. We used to think measurement of eye pressure was a measure of glaucoma risk. We now know that less than 50% of glaucoma is associated with high eye pressure. It is a complex disease with risk factors that include race, gender, age, eye anatomy, diabetes, high myopia and more. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent glaucoma. Routine annual eye exams are your best defense (especially if you have an immediate family history) in early detection and treatment.
How do I know if I have Glaucoma?
Glaucoma has no pain, blurry vision, or noticeable vision loss until it’s end stage. It causes a very slow, gradual loss of nerve fibers, usually those involved with your side (peripheral) vision first. Even using sophisticated side vision testing equipment, vision losses are only evident when 70% of a nerve bundle is damaged. Treatment at this late stage means AT BEST we can only save 30% of your remaining nerve. However, using modern diagnostic imaging equipment (OCT), we can detect nerve losses as small as 5%, allowing for early treatment to reduce eye pressure and prevent further damage
What is the Treatment for Glaucoma
If the nerve stays stable with no progressive damage, it may be just an eye drop at night for the rest of your life. If damage continues to progress, we either switch to, or add a different class of medicated eye drop. In more advanced cases we will refer you for laser surgery or microsurgery to further reduce eye pressure. When diagnosed and treated early, prognosis for good vision remains high.
Mission Eye Care optometrists are highly trained in the treatment of glaucoma and we pride ourselves on having the latest technology and diagnostic imaging equipment. Contact us today to set up an appointment.