Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the US, and can affect patients of all ages, many of who do not experience any symptoms and may not be aware that they have the disease. Glaucoma actually refers to a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve as a result of increased pressure within the eye, but can also be caused by a severe eye infection, injury, blocked blood vessels or inflammatory conditions of the eye.
There are two main types of glaucoma, open-angle and angle-closure. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma and involves fluid in the eye not draining properly through the trabecular meshwork. Angle-closure glaucoma involves a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye and poor drainage because the angle between the iris and the cornea is too narrow.
Many patients do not experience any symptoms during the early stages of glaucoma, including no pain and no vision loss. This makes it difficult for many patients to know if they have the disease. But as glaucoma progresses, patients may experience a loss of peripheral or side vision, along with sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision or the appearance of halos around lights.
To detect glaucoma, your physician will test your visual acuity and visual field as well as the pressure in your eye. Regular eye exams help to monitor the changes in your eyesight and to determine whether you may develop glaucoma.
Vision with advanced glaucoma
Once diagnosed, glaucoma can be controlled. Treatments to lower pressure in the eye include non-surgical methods such as prescription eye drops and medications, laser therapy, and surgery.
Dr. Katzman has the latest diagnostic equipment for the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, including a computerized visual field analyzer, Spectralis ocular coherence tomography (OCT), pachymeter and digitized photography for documentation of the appearance of the optic nerve. There is a laser in the office to perform the state-of-the-art glaucoma treatment, Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty.
While there are no surefire ways to prevent glaucoma from developing, regular screenings and early detection are the best forms of protection against the harmful damage that the disease can cause. While anyone can develop glaucoma, some people are at a higher risk for developing disease. These people may include those who:
- Are over the age of 60
- African Americans over the age of 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Have poor vision
- Have diabetes
Patients should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years, especially if they have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Older patients may be encouraged to be tested more frequently.