What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases in which the optic nerve that transmits the eye’s image to the brain is under pressure greater than what is can withstand. This pressure damages the nerve causing permanent vision loss.
Dr Steve Reinders of Complete Family Eyecare is a fully trained glaucoma optometrist in Prior Lake, MN.
Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma
Glaucoma has no symptoms until significant optic nerve damage has been done. Once a patient notices blind spots in the vision, at least half the optic nerve is dead. This is what makes glaucoma such a dangerous disease. Peripheral vision is usually affected first, leaving just tunnel vision in the advanced stages of the disease before blindness occurs.
What Causes Glaucoma?
There are several risk factors for developing glaucoma:
- This is the most common risk factor for developing glaucoma (and disease in general).
- Glaucoma runs in families to some extent but your parents and your siblings are the only people statistically significant to you.
- High Blood Pressure
- African American are four times more likely to have vision loss from glaucoma than Caucasians .
Glaucoma is a plumbing problem in which fluid (aqueous) produced inside of the eye cannot drain out of the eye fast enough causing the eye pressure to rise past what the nerve endings in the eye can withstand. This effectively kills the nerves endings causing a loss of signal to the brain where the vision is processed. In some patients, even normal eye pressure can cause glaucoma like vision loss.
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
There are several steps in diagnosing glaucoma. Most commonly the first step is a high eye pressure reading at a routine eye examination. An optic nerve evaluation is then performed by your eye doctor to determine the extent of the damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma affects the peripheral vision first so a visual field test is performed to determine the extent of vision loss. Your doctor will base the diagnosis on these findings.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
Treatment for glaucoma depends on the severity and type of glaucoma. The vast majority of glaucoma patients will never lose vision if they treat the disease properly. In a simple case of glaucoma, eye drops are very effective in lowering eye pressure and only have to be used once in the evening. These drops work to increase fluid outflow. Eye drops that work to decrease the amount of fluid made are also available. In more advanced glaucoma cases or when drops are not effective in controlling the pressure, surgery can be an option. A laser can be used to open new holes in the eye’s drain mechanism or an artificial drain pipe can be implanted into the eye to increase the outflow. Cataract surgery can also help lower eye pressure as the removal of the eye’s lens decompresses the eye and increases fluid outflow.
What Steps Should I Take if I Think I Have Glaucoma?
We recommend making an appointment to see Dr. Reinders as quickly as possible before the glaucoma causes more vision loss. He has 22 of years of experience treating patients with glaucoma and other related conditions. The sooner you can check your eyes, the better. All doctors agree that waiting and hoping it will get better is not a prescription for success.