Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and affects approximately one out of every 50 adults. It is a complicated disease that damages the optic nerve and leads to progressive, irreversible vision loss. However, if diagnosed early, glaucoma can be effectively treated.
Glaucoma is usually caused by an increase in fluid production or a decrease in fluid drainage in the eye. The change in fluid levels eventually destroys the optic nerve fibers and results in loss of vision.
There are a few types of glaucoma:
Open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, often goes undiagnosed because there is no discomfort or pain, and no change in vision until there is already a significant loss. It occurs when fluids do not drain properly due to a gradually built blockage deep within the eye. The increased pressure damages the optic nerve and causes loss of vision.
Angle-closure glaucoma is quite rare, but has much more pronounced symptoms that include blurred vision, pain, halos around lights, and even nausea. It is caused by a rapid increase of pressure inside the eye due to blocked fluid drainage channels.
Normal-tension glaucoma (NTG), is also known as low tension or normal pressure glaucoma. In this type of glaucoma, damage occurs to the optic nerve without eye pressure exceeding the normal range. Causes are unknown, but for some reason, the optic nerve is susceptible to damage from a normal and relatively low amount of eye pressure.
Glaucoma of all types is usually detected during regular eye exams. Special instruments are used to check the fluid pressure in the eye, and a magnifying lens is used to examine the drainage channels for proper fluid outflow.
When detected early, glaucoma can usually be treated and vision can be preserved. There is no cure, though-once vision is lost it cannot be restored.
Vision loss from glaucoma is permanent, but can usually be prevented when it's detected early and then properly treated. Getting regular eye exams is the best defense against vision loss caused by glaucoma.
Here are some risk factors to consider:
Although glaucoma can occur at any age, the risk of developing glaucoma increases dramatically after age 35. That risk increases further after age 60.
African Americans are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma and should begin having their eye pressure monitored by age 30.
Asian Americans are at higher risk of developing angle-closure glaucoma.
Other glaucoma risk factors include:
Traditional treatments for glaucoma are the use of eye drops on a regular schedule to control eye pressure and other medications. Both are safe and effective at treating glaucoma. Some work by slowing down the production of fluids or by improving drainage of fluid from the eye. Below are some common glaucoma medication types:
Prostaglandin Analogues - Xalatan®, Lumigan®, Travatan Z®
These medications work by opening up drainage channels in the eye. They are extremely effective and are taken once a day. These medications may cause red eye and increase eyelash growth.
Beta-Blockers - Timolol®, Betimol®, Istalol®, Betagan®
These medications have been used to effectively treat glaucoma for years. They slow down the production of fluid inside the eye and thus reduce pressure on the optic nerve. People suffering from asthma or heart failure should not take them.
Carbonic Anhydrase Inhibitors (CAI) - Azopt®, Trusopt®
These medications also work by slowing down the production of fluid inside the eye, reducing pressure. They are very effective when combined with a prostaglandin analogue or a beta-blocker.
An alternative to medications are laser treatments that may reduce or eliminate the need for medications or help them work better. DeHaven offers two such treatments: Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) and Endoscopic Cyclophotocoagulation (ECP).