It is estimated that over two million Americans have some type of glaucoma and half of them do not know it.
Glaucoma is a condition that causes damage to your eye’s optic nerve and gets worse over time. It’s often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye. Glaucoma and may not show up until later in life.
The increased pressure, called intraocular pressure, can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. If damage to the optic nerve from high eye pressure continues, glaucoma will cause permanent loss of vision. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause total permanent blindness within a few years.
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.
For most people, there are usually few or no symptoms of glaucoma. The first sign of glaucoma is often the loss of peripheral or side vision, which can go unnoticed until late in the disease Glaucoma usually occurs in both eyes, but it may involve each eye to a different extent.
To diagnose glaucoma, Dr. Kessler 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.Dr. Kessler 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 Dr. Kessler. It involves evaluation of risk factors for glaucoma, the clinical examination, and the interpretation of the tests.
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.