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Glaucoma is the leading cause of permanent blindness in the United States, and it is estimated to affect nearly one in every 50 adults. Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. Glaucoma is often called the "silent bandit of vision" because in most cases vision loss appears gradually, unnoticed by the patient until it has become severe. It may not show up until later in life. Fortunately, with today’s technology and early detection, loss of sight due to most cases of glaucoma can be controlled.

Learn more about glaucoma

What is Glaucoma?

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Glaucoma usually occurs when pressure in your eye increases. This can happen when eye fluid isn’t circulating normally in the front part of the eye.

Normally, this fluid, called aqueous humor, flows out of the eye through a mesh-like channel. If this channel becomes blocked, fluid builds up, causing glaucoma. The direct cause of this blockage is unknown, but doctors do know that it can be inherited, meaning it is passed from parents to children.

Early Warning Signs

Because most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain, it is important to have regular, routine eye exams so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term visual loss occurs.

Some of the early warning signs include:

  • Ocular pain
  • Cloudy vision with halos
  • Blurry vision
  • Red eyeballs
  • Small blind spots in the peripheral vision
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Types of Glaucoma

There are two types of glaucoma:

Open-angle glaucoma: This is the most common type of glaucoma. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the drain of the eye, called the trabecular meshwork.

Angle-closure glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is less common, but can cause a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye. Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea (where a drainage channel for the eye is located) is too narrow. Or, the pupil opens too wide, narrowing the angle and blocking the flow of the fluid through that channel. The fluid accumulates and forces the iris to obstruct the trabecular meshwork. When this happens, the function of meshwork fails to respond to the aqueous fluid and this leads to an increase of pressure. Scars can form causing an irreversible block in the aqueous outflow. Vision can be lost.

Glaucoma Diagnosis and Treatment Options

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

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To diagnose glaucoma, the doctors at Carroll Vision Center will test your vision and examine your eyes through dilated pupils. The eye exam typically focuses on the optic nerve which has a particular appearance in glaucoma. In fact, photographs of the optic nerve can also be helpful to follow over time how the optic nerve appearance changes as glaucoma progresses. The doctors will also perform a procedure called tonometry to check the eye pressure.

A visual field test is often performed to determine if there is loss of side vision. Glaucoma tests are painless and take very little time.

The diagnosis of glaucoma is a clinical decision made by the doctors at Carroll Vision Center. It involves evaluation of risk factors for glaucoma, the clinical examination, and the interpretation of the tests.

How is glaucoma treated?

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A routine eye exam is the best way to protect yourself from glaucoma because symptoms usually do not appear until vision has been affected. An early diagnosis can help stop the progression of this eye condition and there are treatments available. 

The modern goals of glaucoma management are to avoid glaucomatous damage to the optic nerve, and preserve visual field and total quality of life for patients, with minimal side effects.

​Most treatment for glaucoma is directed at lowering the pressure in the eyes (intraocular pressure, or IOP).

Treatment for open-angle glaucoma usually involves eyedrops that lower the pressure inside the eye. Decreasing eye pressure in open-angle glaucoma slows the progression of the disease and helps prevent further vision loss.

Closed-angle glaucoma can be an emergency situation (acute closed-angle glaucoma), because blockage of fluid in the eye causes a sudden increase in pressure, resulting in rapid damage to the optic nerve.

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