What is Glaucoma?
Nearly two and a half million people have glaucoma. Glaucoma is known as the “silent thief” because it silently steals your vision, often without warning signs or symptoms. In fact, nearly half of those with glaucoma are not even aware that they have the disease. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and the leading cause of preventable blindness. Routine eye exams are your first line of defense against glaucoma’s effects. If you are found to have glaucoma, the doctors at North Suburban Eye Specialists can provide you with the most advanced and up-to-date treatment options.
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss. Like a cable wire, the optic nerve is responsible for carrying the images we see to the brain. Damage to the optic nerve can occur when pressure within the eye increases. This usually occurs due to a build-up of aqueous fluid inside the eye because of a problem with the internal drainage canal inside the eye. The elevation of pressure may lead to damage to the optic nerve, and then to the development of blind spots in the field of vision. However, vision loss may even occur without elevation of the intra-ocular pressure in some patients with glaucoma. Blind spots in the field of vision usually go undetected by the individual until the optic nerve is significantly damaged. During this time there can be significant permanent loss of peripheral and central vision.
Common Types of Glaucoma
Not every type of glaucoma is the same, nor will it have the same impact on your life. If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma please make sure to familiarize yourself with the different types of glaucoma listed below. The glaucoma specialists at North Suburban Eye Specialists are happy to provide additional information regarding your specific type of glaucoma and how this will impact your vision.
Chronic open-angle glaucoma:
This is the most common type of glaucoma. The drainage angle, where the fluids in the eye drain, is open, but is not working efficiently. This inability to drain causes pressure within the eye to rise, which results in a gradual loss of peripheral vision.
This type of glaucoma occurs when the drainage angle becomes blocked by otherwise normal tissue inside the eye. This prevents any fluid from draining from the eye and causes the pressure within the eye to suddenly rise. This can lead to an extreme rise in pressure causing issues such as blurred vision, headaches, severe eye pain and the appearance of halos around lights.
Who is at risk for Glaucoma?
Since glaucoma can affect anyone, it is important to receive regular comprehensive eye examinations. While everyone may be at risk for glaucoma, there are certain factors that can increase your risk of glaucoma. They are:
- 65 years or older
- Increased eye pressure
- Family history of glaucoma
- Severe nearsightedness
- African-American, Hispanic or Asian descent
- History of eye injury
Regular eye exams by a qualified ophthalmologist or optometrist are the only way to reliably detect glaucoma. Depending on your age and your risk factors the frequency of eye exams will be determined by your doctor.
If you have been diagnosed with glaucoma and treatment is recommended it is important to understand that while there is no cure for the disease there is good treatment. Since the vision loss from glaucoma is permanent early treatment is important to preserve vision. The doctors at North Suburban Eye Specialists are committed to using the most advanced technology and techniques to treat glaucoma.
Glaucoma is usually treated with daily eye drops that decrease eye pressure either by slowing the amount of fluid produced within the eye or by improving the flow through the drainage canal.
A variety of surgical techniques exist to treat glaucoma that is not responsive to medical therapy or that needs additional therapy along with medications. These techniques vary from office based laser procedures to surgical procedures performed in an operating room. At NSES, our glaucoma surgeons specialize in glaucoma surgery and are trained in the latest techniques. These include selective laser trabeculoplasty, laser iridotomy, trabeculectomy, tube shunt procedures, and microinvasive glaucoma surgery.
Impact on Your Life
Most people with glaucoma lead a completely normal life. If medication is prescribed, it is important that it is taken properly in order to control the disease. Developing a consistent daily routine can ensure that medication is taken as prescribed. Successful patients often take their medication or drops at times of routine behavior such as waking, bed time, or meal time. Routine follow up exams will be needed throughout life with your doctor. At these exams various testing will be performed to monitor the disease and help direct treatment. Patients that take an active role in their disease by learning about it and interacting with their doctor at each visit are able to actively participate in the care of their vision.