Glaucoma is the second leading cause of vision loss in the United States behind only cataracts. Currently affecting more than 3 million Americans – though half are unaware they even have the eye disease – glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that lead to intraocular pressure and damage to the optic nerve, the nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain. This pressure comes from a buildup of normal fluid called the aqueous humor, which is naturally and continuously produced in the front of your eye.
Everyone is at risk of glaucoma. However, certain factors can increase that risk, including: if you are over 60 years of age, if you are African American, if you have high myopia (nearsightedness), diabetes, hypertension, or if you need steroids.
To make the situation worse, many people will not experience any symptoms of glaucoma until they begin to lose their vision. The most common type of glaucoma induced vision loss is tunnel vision, the gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision. Other signs and symptoms include: severe eye pain, nausea and vomiting, sudden onset of visual disturbance (often in low light), blurred/blurry vision, halos around lights, and reddening of the eye.
Without treatment, glaucoma can lead to permanent vision loss. While there is currently no cure for glaucoma, regularly scheduled eye exams, early detection, and treatment (medication and possibly surgery) can help slow or even prevent further vision loss brought on by this disease.
Since glaucoma damage begins well before conventional tests can identify it, we are increasingly thankful for the ability to identify early, subtle nerve damage. Doctors are able to utilize advanced imaging devices – special cameras – to create a three dimensional image of the optic nerve, the part of the eye where the eye pressure does its damage. These tests use infra red light or laser light to create a sophisticated computer aided image of the central portion of the optic nerve called the optic cup, and the retinal layer around the nerve, the nerve fiber later, to help predict who might be at risk for vision loss.
These sophisticated early detection devices are helping doctors “predict the future” of glaucoma and intervene long before you have any perceptible loss of visual function.
Besides, Early detection equals earlier, simpler and more effective treatment.
If you have any questions about what you have just read, please contact board certified ophthalmologist Samuel Boles and the eye care specialists at Anne Arundel Eye Center by calling 410-224-2010 or click here today!