Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can damage the eye’s optic nerve and result in vision loss and blindness. Approximately 3 million people in America have glaucoma, yet it is the leading cause of preventable blindness. With early detection and treatment, you can often protect your eyes against serious vision loss.
There are two major categories: “open-angle” – the most common – and “closed angle” glaucoma, as well as less frequent, secondary and congenital types.
Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), is a chronic condition that progresses slowly over a long period of time without the person noticing vision loss until the disease is very advanced. Glaucoma can occur when the normal fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises. However, recent findings now show that glaucoma can occur with normal eye pressure – this is called normal tension glaucoma. Furthermore, just because an intraocular pressure is high is not an indication you have glaucoma – this is referred to as ocular hypertension. The diagnosis of POAG is made by the appearance of the optic nerve, visual field testing (this is a test of side vision because glaucoma vision loss starts peripherally and slowly moves toward the central visual field) and nerve fiber layer loss.
Some risk factors of POAG include age, increased eye pressure, family history, diabetes, African American or Latino ancestry.
Acute angle closure glaucoma (AACG) can appear suddenly and is painful. Visual loss can progress quickly. However, the discomfort often leads patients to seek medical attention before permanent damage occurs. While the exact cause of POAG is unknown, AACG occurs when the space between the cornea and the iris close. This then obstructs fluid from leaving the eye and the eye pressure rises significantly, resulting in pain.
Treatments for glaucoma include eye drops, laser treatment and surgical intervention. The most recent FDA approved drug was twenty years ago in 1996. Any eye drop treatment, improvement or enhancement approved since has been a combination of previously existing medications. While there are new medications currently in FDA trials, the earliest they would be available is 2017. Surgical treatments have evolved as well, including ways to treat glaucoma during cataract surgery.
At Antietam Eye, we value the innovation to help prevent and protect your eyes against vision loss. With modernized diagnostic equipment and caring doctors who are able to recognize the risk factors we can interpret the data, make the diagnosis and treat the disease.
Healthy Eyes That Last a Lifetime.