What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a series of diseases that if left untreated can cause damage to the optic nerve, resulting in gradual vision loss and eventual blindness. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and is estimated to affect 1 of every 50 adults. The doctors at Barenburg Eye Associates are trained in the early detection of glaucoma through comprehensive eye examinations as well as the medical treatment of the disease.
Causes of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is usually caused by an increase in the fluid pressure in the eye. This fluid (aqueous humor) usually exits the eye through a drainage system. But, when this drainage system fails to work properly, the fluid builds up in the eye, causing increased pressure. The high pressure, if not treated properly, causes damage to the optic nerve, resulting in permanent vision loss.
Type of Glaucoma
The most common type of glaucoma is chronic open angle glaucoma. The gradual increase in eye pressure is often associated with no early symptoms and patients will not detect a change in their vision until significant vision loss has occurred. Acute angle closure glaucoma is a sudden complete blockage of the drainage system and causes blurred vision, severe pain, nausea and halos around lights. This type of glaucoma is considered a medical emergency, as vision loss occurs rapidly without immediate treatment.
Management and Treatment of Glaucoma
The doctors at Barenburg Eye Associates are trained in a variety of treatments for glaucoma. Glaucoma is monitored through additional testing including visual field testing, and Optical coherence tomography (OCT) as well as pressure measurements. The visual field test is a subjective measure of central and peripheral vision, or “side vision,” and uses a light spot that is repeatedly presented in different areas of your peripheral vision. An OCT uses light waves to take cross-section pictures of the nerve fiber layer, determining optic nerve damage. Treatment of glaucoma is usually a life-long process. The most common treatment for chronic open angle glaucoma is the use of medication in the form of eye drops. The medications help to reduce the pressure in the eye to prevent further damage to the optic nerve. A laser procedure called an SLT, Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty, may be performed in addition to, or instead of eye drops to reduce the pressure in the eye. The treatment of angle closure glaucoma requires a different laser procedure, a peripheral iridotomy (PI) to create an alternate pathway for fluid to be drained from the eye. A PI may also be performed prophylactically in patients who present with narrow angles to prevent an angle closure situation.
Vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented with early detection and treatment. A yearly eye examination is recommended to diagnose any eye diseases, including glaucoma. If a patient is diagnosed with glaucoma, office visits, including measuring the eye pressure and additional testing will be conducted every few months to monitor disease progression.