There are many diseases that can affect our eyes and threaten our vision, including one that affects an estimated three million U.S. adults – Glaucoma. Glaucoma is characterized by the accumulation of pressure inside the eye. In many instances, this develops very slowly and gradually, meaning it can take some time for symptoms to appear. However, there are rare instances where the pressure builds suddenly, causing severe symptoms that will prompt you to seek professional help right away. This is because the pressure causes damage to the optic nerve, the purpose of which is to send messages from the eye to the brain to tell us what we can see.
Glaucoma can be caused by a range of different things, from taking certain medications or having particular medical conditions to underlying eye conditions like uveitis. When you are diagnosed with Glaucoma, your eye doctor may be able to identify what has caused your Glaucoma.
In the vast majority of cases, glaucoma develops extremely slowly, and this can make it very difficult to realize that you are suffering from the condition. Unless you regularly attend comprehensive eye exams (which glaucoma testing forms part of), some damage may be done to your vision before you are diagnosed.
In slow-developing Glaucoma, the key symptoms of the condition include:
Loss of peripheral vision
Rainbow-colored circles around lights
If you are one of the small percentages of patients to develop acute Glaucoma, these symptoms will also be accompanied by:
Intense eye pain
In either case, if you notice the symptoms of Glaucoma then you should make an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible. However, this is particularly true for patients who may have acute closed-angle Glaucoma.
If you or your eye doctor suspect that you may have Glaucoma, there may be a number of different tests that you are asked to undergo to confirm a diagnosis. These could include the following:
A tonometry test: this is used to measure the pressure within your eye. It doesn’t hurt as eye drops are used to numb the eye and it takes just a few seconds.
Ophthalmoscopy: this dilated eye exam looks at the shape and color of the optic nerve to check for any abnormalities.
Perimetry: this is a visual field test that produces a map of your complete field of vision in order to determine if your eyesight has been affected by glaucoma. This is important since peripheral vision is usually one of the first things to be affected by the condition.
Gonioscopy: This test helps to establish what type of glaucoma is affecting you. It examines the angle where the iris meets the cornea to see whether it is open and wide (the most common type of glaucoma has this characteristic) or narrow and closed.
Pachymetry: this simple, painless test measures the thickness of your cornea, which is the clear, domed window on the front part of the eye. Again, this is painless, and it usually takes less than a minute to measure both eyes.
Using the information obtained from these tests, your eye doctor will be able to confirm if you are suffering from Glaucoma and if so, which type. This is important as it will enable them to make a decision about which treatment you require to prevent any (possibly further) vision loss from glaucoma.
Any vision that is lost as a result of Glaucoma is, unfortunately, unable to be restored. It is for this reason that seeking prompt diagnosis and treatment is so important. Fortunately, there are a number of things that can be done to get your eye pressure under control and prevent any further vision loss.
If you have lost some vision due to glaucoma, your eye doctor may prescribe glasses or contact lenses which could help you to see more clearly. These can be used in addition to the following treatments:
Eyedrops. Eyedrops are usually the first course of action for treating the most common type of glaucoma, and there are several varieties that contain medications that can lower and control the amount of pressure within your eye. These should be taken exactly as directed and if you have any concerns, you should speak to your eye doctor.
Oral medications. Oral medications may be recommended if eye drops are not reducing your intraocular pressure sufficiently. This treatment is also the first line of care for patients with acute glaucoma, where it is essential to get the pressure under control as quickly as possible.
Laser treatment. This is typically recommended for patients with acute angle glaucoma to follow their oral medication as it is a very effective way of quickly reducing eye pressure. The process is carried out using a local anesthetic, and the laser is used to open up the drainage channels within the eye so that the fluid can drain, and the pressure can reduce.
Trabeculectomy. The final resort for patients with severe glaucoma, a trabeculectomy is a surgical procedure to remove blockages within the eye’s natural drainage system so that the pressure can reduce.
If you have any further questions about diagnosing and treating glaucoma, please don’t hesitate to speak to our expert eye care team in Sugar Land, TX.