According to the American Association of Ophthalmology (AAO), there are approximately 2.2 million people in the United States over the age of 40 who suffer from Glaucoma. Due to few if any warning signs, more than half of the men and women who have Glaucoma are unaware that they have the disease until irreversible effects have taken place. It is important to understand how Glaucoma gradually eliminates vision without even being noticed.

Glaucoma Diagram

What is Glaucoma?

Defined as a disease of the optic nerve, Glaucoma interrupts the nerve which carries images seen by the brain. With higher than normal levels of intraocular pressure, people are at greater risk for damage to the optic nerve and even blindness. The condition of Glaucoma occurs when the eye drainage area or drainage angle of the aqueous humor is blocked keeping excess fluid in the eye, increasing pressure and damaging the fibers of the optic nerve.

Risk Factors

older african american couple riding bikesPeople with diabetes, high blood pressure or are over the age of 40 are at higher risk of developing Glaucoma. Studies show that people with a family history of Glaucoma and of African-American descent are four times more likely to develop the disease.

Detecting Glaucoma

Detection of Glaucoma is best conducted through regular eye exams by checking the intraocular pressure of the eye. There are other methods of testing vision for signs of Glaucoma as well.

The Ophthalmic Specialists of Michigan perform a complete and thorough eye exam which includes:

  • Tonometry or measurement of the intraocular pressure of the eye
  • Gonioscopy or visual inspection of the eye’s angle of drainage
  • Ophthalmoscopy or HRT (Retinal Tomography), OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) and/or Fundus
  • OCT, or Optical Coherence Tomography, Ophthalmoscopy or HRT (Retinal Tomography), and/or Fundus
  • Photograph the optic nerve for possible damage diagnosis
  • Peripheral exam testing the complete field of vision

Types of Glaucoma

  • Open-Angle Glaucoma – Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most common form of Glaucoma. The risk of Open-Angle Glaucoma increases as you age and typically has no early-stage symptoms.
  • Closed-Angle Glaucoma – Closed-Angle Glaucoma frequently occurs in small eyes who suffer from hyperopia, or farsightedness, when the iris is too close to the angle of drainage. While some with this form of Glaucoma have no signs of the disease, others experience blurry vision, pain in the eye region, discoloration in the halo region of the eye, nausea, vomiting, and headaches.
  • Congenital Glaucoma – Congenital Glaucoma is bolder than other types of Glaucoma. Congenital Glaucoma is much less common and is generally diagnosed at birth. Congenital Glaucoma often requires surgery within the first 3 years of life. The symptoms include eye enlargement, cloudiness of the cornea and consistent tearing of the eye.

Treating Glaucoma

Woman putting in eye dropsAlthough Glaucoma is incurable, timely detection and treatment can slow its progression and preserve sight.

For those suffering from Glaucoma, treatment is life-long with surgery at times being the best option to lower the pressure in the eye. For many years, eye drops were the treatment of choice for Glaucoma. There are now many treatments to choose from when dealing with this disease, including advanced laser procedures.

  • Eye Drops – there are several types of glaucoma eye drops, all of which work by decreasing the fluid production in the eye or increasing the drainage of fluid from the eye
  • Laser Procedure – To increase the outflow of the internal eye fluid, a laser procedure can be performed. These procedures are typically done in the clinic.
    • SLT – selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) lowers the internal eye pressure. Because this procedure creates minimal heat damage to the surrounding tissue, it can usually be repeated if necessary
    • LPI – Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI) is a procedure that is generally recommended for patients with narrow-angle glaucoma or acute angle-closure glaucoma. LPI attempts to open the narrow-angle in the eye, allowing fluid to drain more normally and lowers the eye pressure.
  • Glaucoma Surgery-also either decreases the fluid production in the eye or increases the drainage from the eye.
    • ECP – Endoscopic Cyclophotocoagulation (ECP) is a procedure that is performed at the same time or after cataract surgery. Many patients who need cataract surgery, also have glaucoma. With this procedure, once the cataract is removed, the ECP probe is then inserted into the same micro-incision and treats the ciliary body with laser energy.
    • Stents and Shunts are small devices that are surgically inserted into the eye to increase the outflow of the intraocular fluid and reduce the eye pressure.

The earlier you detect Glaucoma, the better chance doctors have of slowing its progression and preserving eyesight. Annual eye exams, including the measurement of your intraocular pressure, allow ophthalmologists to diagnose and treat the disease.

Call OSM today for an appointment for a complete eye exam to ensure the health of your eyes.