Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness affecting millions of Americans over the age of 35. Glaucoma is called “the thief of sight” by eye care professionals because the disease typically has no symptoms, until irreversible damage to your eyesight has occurred. It is estimated that half of the population with glaucoma are not even aware that they have this vision threatening disease.
“Loss of vision from glaucoma can usually be prevented with early detection and proper treatment. That is why regular eye health examinations for those who are at risk are so important", says Dr. Schneider.
Glaucoma is a condition where elevated pressure inside the eye causes damage to the optic nerve. In the front of the eye, there is an area called the anterior chamber. Normally, clear fluid flows in and out of this chamber. Patients who have been diagnosed with glaucoma experience an increase in eye pressure when the passages that normally allow the fluid to drain become blocked. No one is sure why this happens, but unless the pressure is controlled, permanent vision loss occurs.
Visual loss usually occurs first in the peripheral field of vision, or “side vision”, progressing towards the central area of the visual field. This can create what is known as "tunnel" vision in patients with advanced glaucoma. Without treatment, glaucoma will continue to progress, affecting both side and central vision, and eventually cause blindness. At first, there are no symptoms, but as the disease progresses a person with glaucoma may notice his or her vision gradually failing.
A more rare form of glaucoma, known as acute glaucoma, develops rapidly and its symptoms include pain, blurred vision, loss of side vision, seeing halos or colored rings around lights and pain or redness in one, or both eyes.
- blurred vision
- seeing halos around lights
- loss of peripheral vision
Who Is At Risk For Glaucoma?
Although anyone can develop glaucoma, some people are at higher risk and need to be seen in our office regularly to manage the disease and prevent vision loss. Those who are at high risk for glaucoma include:
- patients with a family history of glaucoma.
- patients that have had a serious eye injury.
- patients with diabetes.
- patients who are very nearsighted.
- patients of African American or Hispanic descent.
- patients who take corticosteroid medications.
How Is Glaucoma Detected?
If you are over the age of 40 and have a family history of glaucoma, Dr. Schneider recommends a complete eye examination every one to two years. Glaucoma is diagnosed by a thorough medical eye exam. During your exam, Dr. Schneider will determine if your pressure is too high, and/or if the optic nerve appears damaged. Many times a patient's pressure can be read as normal and he may still have optic nerve damage and glaucoma. This is because the pressure in the eye can fluctuate and be high at one time in the day (typically it is higher in the morning) and normal at another time during the day.
TriCounty Eye Institute offers our patients the most advanced technology available to detect glaucoma at the earliest stage of development. These are completely painless tests, and are important to evaluate the site of damage before you experience any vision loss.
“This important new technology works like a CAT scan. A laser beam scans the eye and checks for any changes which could signify the early stages of glaucoma. This allows us to manage the disease before any damage has occurred", states Dr. Schneider
During your exam, Dr. Schneider will perform several additional tests including measuring the pressure of your eye, and mapping your field of vision to reveal any patterns that might indicate a change in your vision. Once diagnosed, glaucoma requires life long care and Dr. Schneider will need to see you frequently to manage the disease in order to prevent vision loss.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
When glaucoma is suspected in a patient, Dr. Schneider will typically prescribe eye drops to reduce pressure. How well the drops are working for you will be monitored for effectiveness over a period of time. In some cases, eye drops by themselves do not lower pressure and laser surgery may be indicated. Dr. Schneider uses the most advanced laser treatments to create a new drainage passage allowing the fluid in the eye to flow more freely, reducing pressure in your eye.
Dr. Schneider Answers Common Questions about Glaucoma
What is Normal Pressure?
There is no single pressure that we can call normal for all individuals. When treating glaucoma, we choose a target pressure, which we believe will protect and prevent further optic nerve damage. Presently, pressure up to 21 is considered normal in screening for glaucoma; however, any pressure needs to be evaluated in conjunction with the optic nerve appearance and visual field studies before a statement about a control of glaucoma pressures can be made.
What Does My Follow-up Care Involve?
Every glaucoma patient is different and we have several excellent advances today for managing this vision threatening disease. We will work together to find a treatment plan that lowers your pressure and prevents loss of vision from glaucoma.
Why Do I Have To Be Seen So Often?
The treatment of glaucoma requires life long care to manage the disease. You will be followed regularly in my office to monitor your treatment insuring the prevention of vision loss.
How Long Should I Wait Between Drops?
We recommend that patients wait 3 to 5 minutes between drops. Techniques to reduce the amount of drop medication that enters through the nasolacrimal duct system, nose and throat can be reduced by closing eyelids for 3 minutes following each instillation.
Will Taking “Over the Counter” Medications Affect My Eye Pressure?
Many sinus and cold medications have a warning on the label about using in the presence of diagnosed glaucoma. If you have questions regarding any of these medications please call our office.