Glaucoma

What is glaucoma?

Thornton, Colorado Glaucoma Care

(Top): Normal vision; (Bottom): Simulated vision in a patient with advanced glaucoma.

Glaucoma is an eye disease in which the internal fluid pressure of the eye rises to a point that the optic nerve is damaged.  The pressure that builds up is usually due to inadequate drainage of fluid that is normally produced in the eyes.  Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.  At Vista Eye Care in Thornton, Colorado, our optometrists recommend yearly eye exams to check for early signs of glaucoma.

What causes glaucoma?

The exact cause of glaucoma is not known.  For unknown reasons, the passages that normally allow fluid within the eye to drain out become clogged or blocked.  This results in fluid building up within the eye and increases the pressure on the optic nerve.  The nerve fibers and blood vessels in the optic nerve can easily be damaged by this pressure, resulting in loss of vision.  Injury, infection, or tumor in or around the eye can also cause the intraocular pressure to rise.

Who gets glaucoma?

Glaucoma most frequently occurs in individuals over the age of 40, and there is a hereditary tendency for the development of the disease in some families.  That being said, glaucoma can occur at any age.  It is estimated that over 2 million Americans have glaucoma and this number is expected to rise as the population ages.

Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease.  It occurs more frequently in African Americans than in Caucasians, causes damage at an earlier age and leads to blindness at a much greater rate.  There is also a greater tendency for glaucoma to develop in patients who have diabetes.  Regular eye examinations are particularly important as a preventive eye care measure.

How is glaucoma harmful to vision?

The optic nerve, at the back of the eye, carries visual information to the brain.  As the fibers that make up the optic nerve are damaged, the amount and quality of information sent to the brain decreases and a loss of vision occurs.

Will I go blind from glaucoma?

If diagnosed at an early stage, glaucoma can often be controlled and little or no further vision loss may occur.  If left untreated, first peripheral vision and then central vision will be affected, and blindness may result.

How can I tell if I have glaucoma?

The symptoms of glaucoma can vary depending on the type.  Primary open angle glaucoma often develops slowly and painlessly, with no early warning signs.  It can gradually destroy your vision without you knowing it, and the first indication may occur after vision has already been lost.  Acute angle closure glaucoma, resulting from a sudden blockage of drainage channels in your eye, causes a rapid buildup of pressure accompanied by blurred vision, the appearance of visual “haloes” around lights, as well as pain and redness in the eyes.

How is glaucoma detected?

All comprehensive eye examinations at Vista Eye Care will include testing for glaucoma.  A simple, painless procedure called tonometry measures the internal pressure of the eye.  Our eye doctors, Dr. Abert and Dr. Pedroza, will also look into the eye to observe the health of the optic nerve.  If warning signs of glaucoma are present, a visual field test will be performed to evaluate the function of the peripheral retina.

How is glaucoma treated?

Glaucoma is usually treated effectively with prescription eye drops and medicines that must be taken regularly.  In some cases, laser surgery or traditional scalpel surgery may be required.  The goal of treatment is to prevent loss of vision by lowering the fluid pressure in the eye.

Will my vision be restored after treatment?

Unfortunately, any vision loss as a result of glaucoma is usually permanent and cannot be restored.  This is why regular preventive eye examinations are so important.  Low vision rehabilitation services, that include the use of specialized optical devices and training, may benefit individuals with severe vision loss.

Can glaucoma be prevented?

No, but early detection and treatment can control glaucoma and reduce the chances of damage to the eye and loss of sight.

Please contact our office today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

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