There is a tendency to talk about eye health as it pertains to vision. When we say vision, we mean more along the lines of 20/20 or not 20/20. As you know, there is much more to having healthy eyes than that. While we would love for every person to see clearly without the need for glasses, contacts, or laser vision correction, what we would love even more is for people to avoid sight-threatening diseases like glaucoma. Here, we cover some of the questions we commonly get from people when they are told they are either at risk of this disease or already have it.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is actually a term that describes more than one condition. Both, however, relate to what is called intraocular pressure. There must be pressure inside the eye globe to hold all structures in place. This pressure is maintained by a balance of fluid in the vitreous gel at the center of the eye. Fluid also helps keep the eyes moist and comfortable. The fluid that is produced by the glands in the eyes runs across the ocular surface and then drains away. Glaucoma develops when the fluid inside the eye does not drain, but accumulates, causing elevated intraocular pressure. This increase damages the optic nerve and can cause blindness if not properly treated.
The common types of glaucoma are primary open-angle and closed-angle (also called narrow-angle). Both conditions increase the pressure inside the eye. Primary open-angle glaucoma tends to do this over time. It tends to do so silently, without any warning. Closed-angle glaucoma may also progress over time but, in this condition, there is a risk of an acute attack in which intraocular pressure builds very quickly due to a blocked drainage angle preventing fluid drainage from the eye.
When an acute attack of closed-angle glaucoma occurs, it usually presents with symptoms such as:
- Severe eye pain
- Blurry Vision
- Seeing rings or halos around lights
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Glaucoma is diagnosed by an ophthalmologist who performs a comprehensive, dilated eye exam. The exam measures the pressure in the eye and inspects the drainage angle for abnormalities. Using a special instrument, the ophthalmologist observes the optic nerve for signs of compression. Images may also be taken to more closely evaluate the optic nerve.
How is Glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma treatment, especially when begun early, before vision is affected, is often limited to medication. Prescribed medication can help lower the elevated intraocular pressure and relieve the optic nerve. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed to restore healthier intraocular pressure.
Do you have questions about glaucoma? Contact our Winchester, VA ophthalmology office at 540-722-6200 to schedule an appointment.