Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults.
Glaucoma refers to a group of related eye disorders that all cause damage to the optic nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma usually has few or no initial symptoms.
In most cases, glaucoma is associated with higher-than-normal pressure inside the eye, a condition called ocular hypertension. But it also can occur when intraocular pressure (IOP) is normal. If untreated or uncontrolled, glaucoma first causes peripheral vision loss and eventually can lead to blindness.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the most common type of glaucoma, called primary open-angle glaucoma, affects an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States, and that number is expected to increase to 3.3 million by 2020 as the U.S. population ages. And because most cases of glaucoma have few or no early symptoms, about half of Americans with glaucoma don’t know they have it. Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the U.S. (behind macular degeneration), and the second-leading cause of blindness worldwide (behind cataracts).
We are afforded the luxury of having several physicians on staff with strong backgrounds in diagnosing and treating glaucoma, namely Wills-Eye trained glaucoma expert, Tricia Lennox-Thomas, M.D.
Who Is at Risk?
Open-angle glaucoma is three times more likely to affect African-Americans, compared with non-Hispanic whites in the United States, and blindness from glaucoma is at least six times more prevalent among African-Americans than non-Hispanic whites. Studies also suggest open-angle glaucoma affects Hispanics and Latinos at comparable rates to African-Americans.
Glaucoma often is called the “silent thief of sight,” because most types typically cause no pain and produce no symptoms until noticeable vision loss occurs.
For this reason, glaucoma often progresses undetected until the optic nerve already has been irreversibly damaged, with varying degrees of permanent vision loss. But with acute angle-closure glaucoma, symptoms that occur suddenly can include blurry vision, halos around lights, intense eye pain, nausea and vomiting.
Diagnosis, Screening and Tests for Glaucoma
During routine eye exams, a tonometer is used to measure your intraocular pressure, or IOP. An abnormally high IOP reading indicates a problem with the amount of in the eye. Either the eye is producing too much fluid, or it’s not draining properly.
A normal IOP is typically below 21 mmHg. If your IOP is higher than 30 mmHg, your risk of vision loss from glaucoma is 40 times greater than someone with intraocular pressure of 15 mmHg or lower. This is why glaucoma treatments such as eye drops are designed to keep IOP low.
If you are a glaucoma suspect patient, it wil be recommended you undergo specific imaging technology and visual field tests that can be done at several of our locations. This will create a baseline used to monitor changes in your vision.
Treatment can involve glaucoma surgery, lasers or medication, depending on the severity. Eye drops with medication aimed at lowering IOP usually are tried first to control glaucoma.
Because glaucoma often is painless, people may become careless about strict use of eye drops that can control eye pressure and help prevent permanent eye damage. In fact, non-compliance with a program of prescribed glaucoma medication is a major reason for blindness caused by glaucoma.
The most effective way to preserve your vision when living with Glaucoma is to remain under the constant care of our physicians.
To schedule an exam to determine if you have glaucoma, please contact us.