What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a complex disease that damages your eye’s optic nerve. This deterioration of the optic nerve leads to progressive, irreversible loss of the field of vision. At least 3 million Americans suffer from glaucoma. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of adult blindness.
What causes Glaucoma?
The number one risk factor for glaucoma is a high intraocular pressure. The eye constantly makes aqueous humor. As new aqueous flows into your eye, the same amount should drain out. This process keeps pressure in the eye stable. But if the drainage angle is not working properly, fluid builds up. Pressure inside the eye rises, damaging the optic nerve.
Who is at risk?
Everyone is at risk for glaucoma. However, the following are groups at higher risk for developing glaucoma: African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, people over the age of 60, family members of glaucoma patients.
Types of Glaucoma
There are several types of glaucoma. The two main types are open-angle and angle-closure.
Open-Angle Glaucoma - Most common form of glaucoma, accounting for over 90% of all cases. Open-angle means that the angle where the iris meets the cornea is as wide and open as it should be. It is caused by the internal gradual clogging of the drainage canals resulting in increased eye pressure.
Angle-Closure Glaucoma - It is a result of the angle between the iris and cornea closing, therefore, blocking the entrance to the drainage canals.
Other types of glaucoma include: Normal-Tension, Congenital, Secondary, Pigmentary, Traumatic, Neovascular, Pseudo-exfoliative, and Uveitic Glaucoma.
Glaucoma usually does not manifest any symptoms until extensive peripheral visual loss becomes apparent in the final stages of the disease. It is often referred to as the “sneak thief of sight”. Since glaucoma damage is permanent and cannot be reversed, it is very important to see a doctor for regular eye examinations.
The only way to diagnose glaucoma is with a complete eye exam. During a glaucoma exam, your doctor will measure your eye pressure (tonometry), inspect your eye’s drainage angle (gonioscopy), and examine your optic nerve for damage. In addition, your glaucoma evaluation will include a test of your peripheral (side) vision, and picture or computer measurements of your optic nerve.
Glaucoma is a lifelong disorder that can be controlled, but not cured. Three methods for glaucoma pressure-lowering treatment are available:
Medical - Glaucoma is usually controlled with eyedrop medication used every day.
Laser - These procedures help aqueous drain from the eye. They are usually done in the ophthalmologist’s office or an outpatient surgery center. The main glaucoma laser procedures are Iridotomy and Trabeculoplasty.
Surgical - These procedures create a new drainage channel for the aqueous humor to leave the eye. These surgeries are performed in a operating room. The main glaucoma surgeries are Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS), Trabeculectomy, and Glaucoma Drainage Devices (GDDs).