Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the pathway that takes the picture that your eye sees to your brain. Unfortunately, when the nerve is damaged, we lose the ability to send some or all of the picture that your eye sees to your brain. This results in partial or total blindness depending on the severity of the damage.
Optic nerve damage (Glaucoma) may be caused by high pressure within the eye. There is fluid being produced inside of the eye all of the time. This fluid should be drained away from the eye at roughly the same rate that it is produced. The pressure within the eye will increase if either the eye is making too much fluid or the drain in the eye is not working properly. In either of these cases, the fluid pressure builds up within the eye, just as the pressure in a basketball rises when air is continued to be added to it. This pressure either kills the nerve by squeezing it, or it stops blood from getting to the optic nerve. The more damage there is to the optic nerve the less picture your eye can send to the brain.
There are many different causes and types of glaucoma. Open Angle Glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and is the type described above. Other forms of glaucoma include: Narrow/Closed Angle Glaucoma, Pigmentary Glaucoma, Congenital Glaucoma, Pseudoexfoliative Glaucoma, Inflammatory Glaucoma, Lens-Induced Glaucoma, and many others.
Open Angle Glaucoma may not have any symptoms until much damage is already done to the optic nerve. The symptoms, once noted, are generally blurred vision and loss of peripheral/side vision with advancement into central vision.
Some risk factors for glaucoma include family history, high blood pressure, diabetes, trauma to an eye, nearsightedness, and age over 40.
Glaucoma cannot be cured, but with early detection and treatment, it may be slowed enough to preserve vision.
The initial treatment of Glaucoma can include eyedrops or laser. Medicated eye drops can lower eye pressure by either causing the eye to produce less fluid, or by helping the eye’s internal drain to work better. First treatment may also be done with the ALT laser or the new state of the art SLT laser. These lasers work to help the drain in the eye to function better.
There are also surgical options to treat glaucoma. Building a new drain in the eye is the main surgical option. We also can use tube shunts as a way to siphon off fluid from inside the eye. These surgeries continue to evolve and get better over time.
Untreated glaucoma may lead to blindness. Since it is usually a silent disease, it is recommended that those at higher risk have yearly eye exams. Those individuals with lower risks should make sure to have a full eye exam every few years.
The doctors at South Hills Eye Associates are experienced at treating Glaucoma with the most advanced treatments and medications. We have both the ALT and SLT lasers in our office and we have well trained surgeons who can perform the most up to date Glaucoma surgeries.