As one of the leading causes of blindness in America, glaucoma is a disease of the eye that often goes unnoticed in its earliest stages. As glaucoma initially develops, there are typically no noticeable symptoms until significant damage has already been done.
Fortunately, the disease can often be prevented if it is detected and treated early. This is why regular eye exams are are an important part of glaucoma prevention, especially if you are older than 40 or have a family history of glaucoma. Regular eye exams are the only way to detect signs of glaucoma before it can do serious damage to your eyesight. Glaucoma attacks the optic nerve, which delivers messages from the eye to the brain. As damage is done to the optic nerve, these messages become unable to reach the brain properly, leading to eventual vision loss. While there is no cure for glaucoma, if detected early, proper treatment and regular check-ups can help you to preserve your precious eyesight for the rest of your life.
Contact us today for more information, or to schedule an appointment for an eye exam at Cascadia Eye.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is typically caused by increased intraocular pressure (pressure within the eye) due to an inability of fluid to drain properly. When your eyes experience high levels of pressure–known as ocular hypertension–the optic nerve, a delicate and vulnerable part of your eye, can become damaged. Since this often begins without noticeable symptoms, regular eye exams to detect early stages of glaucoma should be a crucial part of your regular healthcare. Those who may be at an increased risk of developing glaucoma include people with a family history of glaucoma, people over the age of 40, African-Americans age 35 and over, diabetics, people with extreme nearsightedness, and long-term steroid users. During an annual eye exam, our extensively trained eye doctors will review your optic nerve under magnification to check for any signs of change. The exam can also include a check for high intraocular pressure.
The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma. Inside of your eye, there is a constant flow of fluid, called aqueous. If the canal responsible for controlling this flow of fluid is not working properly, drainage can become slowed, causing an increased level of pressure. This intraocular pressure can damage the optic nerve, leading to open-angle glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma, and is often asymptomatic in its early stages. This makes it very important to have regular eye exams to look for signs of the disease before it causes serious damage to your eyesight.
Narrow-angle glaucoma is a less common form of the disease, caused by high pressure within the eye that causes the iris to move forward, completely blocking the eye’s ability to drain. This blockage causes a rapid spike in pressure, and can often result in an emergency condition called acute closed-angle glaucoma. Acute closed-angle glaucoma can result in blindness if it is not immediately diagnosed and treated. This type of glaucoma can cause devastating vision impairment within days, so it is vital to have your eyes examined as quickly as possible.
If you experience headaches, severe eye pain, halos, blurred vision, vomiting, or nausea, you may have narrow-angle glaucoma, and should be seen by an ophthalmologist immediately. Contact Cascadia Eye to schedule an appointment if you feel you may be at risk.
There is no cure for glaucoma, but it can be managed with a variety of treatment options, preserving your vision and reducing further damage to the optic nerve. Your doctor may recommend eye drops or other medications that assist with improving your eyes’ ability to drain appropriately, diminishing the intraocular pressure and the risk of serious vision impairment. Alternately, a surgical procedure may be recommended. This can include laser surgery (YAG or SLT) or surgery using a specialized filtration device.
For more information about glaucoma, or to schedule an exam, please contact us today.