What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that causes vision loss and blindness. It is a disease of the optic nerve, the part of the eye that carries the images we see from the eye to the brain. There are several types of glaucoma, but open angle glaucoma is the most common type. It can occur in one or both eyes.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, responsible for approximately 12% of new cases of irreversible blindness each year in the United States. This condition affects about 3% of all Americans over the age of 65.
Glaucoma is often called ‘the sneak thief of vision” because over half of those with glaucoma don’t know they have it. There are no symptoms in the early phase of this disease. Amazingly, about 40% of people lose their vision without noticing. While there is reason to fear this potentially sight-damaging condition, early diagnosis and treatment can stop the damage and protect your vision. An annual comprehensive eye exam is essential to maintain healthy vision.
What causes glaucoma?
We don’t know the cause of glaucoma, but the first sign is high eye pressure, which usually has no symptoms, so patients don’t feel it or know about it. Normally fluid in the eye drains out of the eye and is replaced to maintain balance. When the fluid doesn’t drain normally out of the eye, it causes a slow buildup of fluid leading to high eye pressure. High intraocular pressure increases the risk of damage to the optic nerve.
Even when intraocular pressure is normal, the optic nerve can be damaged. This is called normal tension glaucoma. Experts do not know why this happens.
Other diseases can cause glaucoma including diabetes, high blood pressure, cataracts, eye inflammation, eye injuries, tumors and reactions to steroid medications used to treat other diseases.
What are the symptoms?
Initially there are no symptoms. Glaucoma develops gradually over time, causing only subtle symptoms, if any, in the later stages of the disease. Vision loss begins slowly with the loss of peripheral, or side, vision. Because of the slow progression people often don’t notice changes in their vision until damage has been done.
However, another less common type is angle-closure glaucoma that does produce sudden symptoms including intense eye pain, nausea, red eye and blurry vision. People with these symptoms should seek emergency care.
Who is at high risk?
- People over the age of 60
- It is 6-8 times more common early in African Americans and Latinos over the age of 40 than Caucasians.
- Those with a family history of glaucoma
- Those with diabetes, thyroid disease, or are very nearsighted
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
Here at the Union Square Eye Care, our eye doctors use today’s most advanced diagnostic equipment during your examination to pinpoint glaucoma in its earliest stages. During a comprehensive eye exam, your eye pressure will be checked. Additionally, a visual field test may be used to check your peripheral vision; and a nerve fiber analysis (OCT) will analyze the health of the optic nerve.
How is glaucoma treated?
When high interocular pressure is found during your eye exam, we will recommend treatment based on your individual needs. Eyedrops can be used to lower eye pressure and prevent damage to the optic nerve.
Laser surgery may be recommended to lower pressure in the eye by helping excessive fluid to drain out of the eye. This is a simple office procedure performed by one of our eye doctors. This laser procedure allows excess fluid to drain from and lower the eye pressure. It is used to treat open-angle glaucoma. We also perform in-office laser treatment for narrow-angle glaucoma, which is the less common form of glaucoma.
Don’t put your vision at risk
Trust Union Square Eye Care to detect glaucoma early through the use of our advanced diagnostic equipment and highly qualified and experienced physicians. If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, there is a good chance that it won’t result in significant vision loss provided you maintain regular checkups and proper treatment. Call to schedule your comprehensive eye exam today at one of our Union Square Eye Care office locations in New York City.