According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old. But what is glaucoma? Well, the term glaucoma actually refers to a group of eye conditions affecting over 3 million Americans. Glaucoma is the result of increased intraocular eye pressure (IOP) and damage the optic nerve, the nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain.
What is Narrow Angle Glaucoma?
Narrow angle glaucoma, also referred to as acute glaucoma or angle closure glaucoma, is one of the rarer forms of glaucoma, and affects nearly 500,000 Americans, but is most common in people of Asian descent or those individuals with farsightedness (hyperopia). Narrow angle glaucoma is characterized by a sudden increase in IOP, often in only a matter of hours. This dramatic increase in IOP can cause severe eye pain, nausea, vomiting, blurry vision and headache. This rapid increase in IOP is the result of – you guessed it – narrow angles. But what exactly does this mean?
You see, when the angle between the iris and the cornea is not as wide and open as it should be, and the pupil enlarges too much or too quickly, the outer edge of the iris bunches up over the drainage canals, called the trabecular meshwork. This causes pressure to build up rapidly. Think of it like a damn. As a river or stream is blocked off, water begins to build behind a damn, increasing pressure. However, the eye is not made to handle this type of pressure, which is why optic nerve damage can sometimes occur.
Narrow Angle Prevention
Fortunately, a simple test can be performed by your eye doctor – optometrist or ophthalmologist – to see if your angle is normal and wide or abnormal and narrow.
A survey done by the Glaucoma Research Foundation found that nearly 75% of people have their eyes examined every two years, which falls in line with recommendations made by the AAO. The AAO recommends that everyone have a baseline eye screening at the age of 40. Based on the results of the initial screening, your eye doctor will recommend the necessary intervals for follow-up exams. Seniors – over the age of 65 – should have complete eye exams every one to two years.
Narrow Angle Glaucoma Treatment
If you have developed narrow angle glaucoma or your eye doctor believes you to be at increased risk, Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI) is most often the first line of treatment. A laser is used to create a small hole in the outer edge of the iris, increasing the size of the angle and allowing fluid to flow more freely. LPI is commonly recommended for eyes which have the angle closed or occludable for at least half the available 360 degree drainage channel. This is determined in the office using a test called gonioscopy. Luckily, this treatment is covered by standard insurance plans and, if you’ve met your yearly deductible already, it is a good way to maximize on that while protecting your vision before year end.
The Anne Arundel Eye Center, led by board certified ophthalmologist Dr. Samuel Boles, is a regional leader in the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma. Staffed by caring and knowledgeable professionals, AAEC’s state-of-the-art treatment center is dedicated to making the best eye care accessible to everyone.
If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Samuel Boles, Dr. Nicole Kershner, Dr. Kathryn Turner, and the eye care specialists here at AAEC by calling 410-224-2010. AAEC is staffed by caring and knowledgeable professionals who will help guide you on your healing journey.