Stopping the Silent Thief
Glaucoma is known as the silent thief of sight. During the early stages of the disease, patients may experience very few symptoms. However, when glaucoma progresses it can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve, leading to blindness.
Glaucoma screening can help your optometrist monitor eye health to prevent vision loss. Book regular eye exams for glaucoma screening with Golden Vision Optometry.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that causes progressive damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve, or the second cranial nerve, is a bundle of over one million nerve fibers. The nerve fibers transmit visual signals from the retina to the brain. When the optic nerve deteriorates, our brain receives less visual information, eventually resulting in complete vision loss.
Glaucoma commonly occurs when increased intraocular pressure (IOP) damages the optic nerve. In healthy eyes, a fluid called the aqueous humor flows through the eye, providing nourishment and then draining (through the drainage angle) to clear waste.
If fluid drainage is blocked, eye pressure can increase. The eye continues to produce fluid to nourish the eye, but the volume does not decrease.
Although high IOP is the most common cause, glaucoma can also occur when eye pressure is within a normal range. For example, if the patient has lower than normal eye pressure, an increase may be measured within the normal range. Alternatively, optic nerve damage may result because of decreased or inadequate blood supply.
There are multiple forms of glaucoma. As a result, symptoms can depend on the type. With more common forms of glaucoma, the disease develops slowly. Patients may not notice symptoms until optic nerve damage is severe. When vision loss occurs, it typically begins with peripheral vision, particularly vision closest to your nose.
In later stages of development, or rapidly-developing glaucoma, symptoms can include:
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain or redness
- Halos around lights
There are 2 main types of glaucoma:
- Primary glaucoma is the result of changes to the eye. In many cases, the condition may not have a known cause.
- Secondary glaucoma occurs because of a health condition, disease, or eye injury. For example, neovascular glaucoma occurs because abnormal blood vessel growth disrupts drainage, usually resulting from diabetes or high blood pressure.
Angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma is a rarer form of glaucoma. It can be acute or chronic. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency and can cause vision loss within one day. Chronic acute angle-closure glaucoma develops slowly.
When the drainage angle is blocked, eye pressure rises. Poor drainage can often result when the eye’s lens becomes larger as a natural part of aging. The changes lead to a narrower space between the iris and cornea (the drainage angle).
Normal-tension or low-tension glaucoma occurs when eye pressure remains within an accepted normal range. The person may have lower-than-average eye pressure, skewing what is considered normal or healthy for their unique eye condition. Alternatively, the individual may have a highly sensitive optic nerve, so even a minimal increase in eye pressure can cause damage.
Normal-tension glaucoma can also result from poor blood supply to the optic nerve. It’s crucial to receive regular glaucoma screenings as they allow your eye doctor to determine a baseline for what is “normal” for you.
Routine comprehensive eye exams include glaucoma screening, but some patients with known risk factors may also benefit from additional testing. Monitoring changes to eye tissue and IOP is crucial for detecting glaucoma. The sooner your eye care team implements treatment, the more likely you’ll achieve a successful outcome.
Glaucoma testing can include:
- Patient history: a detailed understanding of your history, symptoms, and general health can help determine your risk factors. For example, if you have a family history of glaucoma, there’s an increased risk.
- Pachymetry: the assessment measures corneal thickness to monitor changes in the eye, including increased eye pressure.
- Retinal imaging: evaluation of the retina and optic nerve to monitor changes to eye structures.
- Tonometry: a method for measuring intraocular pressure (IOP).
- Visual acuity: testing visual ability can help determine if the patient is experiencing vision changes which can indicate tissue damage.
- Visual field testing: an assessment of your peripheral (side) vision when staring at a fixed point. Peripheral vision can be one of the first visual symptoms of glaucoma.
Protect Your Optic Nerve
Vision is a gift, and prevention is the best way to protect your sight. Glaucoma screening can help detect eye changes before severe damage occurs. Keep an eye on your vision and health with regular eye exams. Book an appointment for your next glaucoma screening with Golden Vision Optometry!
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