What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma, commonly called “the silent thief of sight”. Damage to or excessive pressure on the optic nerve and nerve fibers that form parts of the retina are the main causes of glaucoma. Typically this disease has no symptoms in its early stages. Over time if left untreated it can lead to blindness. According to the National Eye Institute, nearly 2.2 million Americans aged 40 and older have the most common form of glaucoma (open-angle glaucoma). Almost half of these people are not even aware they have the disease!
What are the Different Types of Glaucoma?
There are several different types of glaucoma, but the two major types are :
- Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG)
- Closed Angle Glaucoma, or Angle-Closure Glaucoma
Primary open angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. With primary open angle glaucoma, inner eye pressure rises as the canals that drain fluid from the eye become clogged. POAG can develop over several years. Over time it can reduce vision if it is not diagnosed and treated. Angle-closure glaucoma occurs less frequently than POAG and is much more serious. With this form of the disease, eye pressure rapidly increases to high levels before draining. This overtime causes damage to the optic nerve. Closed angle glaucoma is an emergency and needs immediate medical attention.
What is the Difference Between Open and Closed Angle Glaucoma?
Primary open angle glaucoma does not cause any significant symptoms. Many people do not realize they have glaucoma until they start noticing vision loss at a later stage. At that point, any vision loss cannot be recovered. Therefore, we encourage routine eye examinations. Yearly glaucoma tests can help prevent glaucoma-related vision loss.
Closed-angle glaucoma is different. Because of the sudden increase in IOP, closed-angle glaucoma can cause significant symptoms as described below.
What are the Symptoms of Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma?
Closed-angle glaucoma is considered a medical emergency. If you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to contact emergency services:
- Severe eye pain
- Blurry vision
- Profuse tearing
The symptoms of glaucoma can severely inhibit vision. If you suffer any of these symptoms, we urge you to seek treatment today. If you are an at-risk individual and have yet to experience symptoms, we still encourage you to undergo glaucoma diagnosis at one of our locations.
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
In a healthy, functioning eye the drainage system is referred to as the trabecular meshwork. It drains a fluid called aqueous humor from inside the anterior chamber of the eye. Once drained it allows eye pressure to remain normal. Glaucoma develops when the trabecular meshwork does not drain properly. This results in an increase in pressure on the optic nerve. Ocular hypertension does not cause optic nerve damage or vision loss. It is a big risk factor for glaucoma and requires constant monitoring.
To diagnose glaucoma, we will perform a range of tests. Designed to measure the quality of your vision and detect any potential damage to the optic nerve. Your doctor may want you to repeat the test during the appointment or in future appointments to see if the results are the same. After a diagnosis, visual field tests are usually done one to two times a year to track changes in your vision. Due to the number of tests you’ll undergo, you can expect this appointment to last for two to three hours. If we determine that you have glaucoma, we will discuss which treatment method would be most effective at meeting your needs.
What are the Treatment Options for Glaucoma?
The success of your treatment will largely depend on the stage of your glaucoma at the time of diagnosis, how soon it was addressed, and the experience of your doctor. Our doctors prefer conservative treatment and will always choose the least invasive method that will provide the greatest benefit to your ocular health. Non-surgical glaucoma treatment works best for patients with an early state diagnosis. Only severe cases of glaucoma are typically treated with surgery, and success rates are as high as 90%.
What Affects the Cost of Glaucoma Surgery?
Total treatment cost varies from patient to patient. The cost of your glaucoma surgery will depend on a variety of factors, including:
- Surgical method your doctor recommends
- Type of anesthesia used
- Medications you receive before or after your procedure.
Your doctor will discuss the cost of your procedure in detail during a consultation. Typically, most glaucoma procedures are covered under insurance.
What are the Risk Factors of Glaucoma?
- Age: Anyone who is over the age of 60 is at risk for glaucoma. The occurrence of glaucoma increases with age in all ethnic groups.
- Family history: Anyone who has a relative, such as a sibling or parent, who suffers from glaucoma is at higher risk.
- High intraocular pressure: People with elevated intraocular pressure are at a higher risk for glaucoma.
- Ethnicity: African Americans are at increased risk for glaucoma, especially after the age of 40.
- Diabetes: People who suffer from diabetes are at a higher risk of having glaucoma.
The best way to prevent this “silent thief of sight” from robbing you of your vision is to have regular eye exams. Early detection is imperative to successful treatment. Contact SightMD to schedule a comprehensive eye examination at one of our many convenient locations.