GLAUCOMA - Watsons Health

GLAUCOMA

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can damage your optic nerve. The optic nerve supplies visual information to your brain from your eyes.

Glaucoma is usually, but not always, the result of abnormally high pressure inside your eye. Over time, the increased pressure can erode your optic nerve tissue, which may lead to vision loss or even blindness. If it’s caught early, you may be able to prevent additional vision loss.

Most people with glaucoma don’t have any symptoms. The first sign is often a loss of peripheral, or side, vision. That can go unnoticed until late in the disease. That’s why glaucoma is often called the “sneak thief of vision.”

Detecting glaucoma early is one reason you should have a complete exam with an eye specialist every 1 to 2 years. Occasionally, pressure inside the eye can rise to severe levels. In these cases, you may have sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision, or the appearance of halos around lights.

If you have any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical care:

  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Vision loss
  • Redness in the eye
  • Eye that looks hazy (particularly in infants)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Eye pain
  • Narrowed vision (tunnel vision)

 

The main types of glaucoma are:

Chronic open-angle glaucoma – the most common type, and slow to develop with few symptoms until peripheral vision starts to become lost.

Primary angle-closure glaucoma – rare and can come on suddenly causing eye pain, redness, eye tenderness, headaches, seeing halos around things, misty vision and vision loss.

Secondary glaucoma – after an eye injury or infection causing cloudy vision and halos.

Developmental glaucoma or congenital glaucoma – present from birth and rare, with symptoms including bigger eyes, light sensitivity, cloudy looking eyes, eyes watering, jerky eye movements and squinting.

DIAGNOSIS

Your eye doctor will use drops to open (he’ll call it dilate) your pupils. Then he’ll test your vision and examine your eyes. He’ll check your optic nerve, and if you have glaucoma, it will look a certain way. He may take photographs of the nerve to help him track your disease over time. He’ll do a test called tonometry to check your eye pressure. He’ll also do a visual field test, if necessary, to figure out if you’ve lost your side, or peripheral, vision. Glaucoma tests are painless and take very little time.

 

TREATMENT

Your doctor may use prescription eye drops, laser surgery, or microsurgery.

Eye drops. These either reduce the formation of fluid in the eye or increase its outflow. Side effects may include allergies, redness, stinging, blurred vision, and irritated eyes. Some glaucoma drugs may affect your heart and lungs. Be sure to tell your doctor about any other medications you’re taking or are allergic to.

Laser surgery. This procedure can slightly increase the flow of the fluid from the eye for people with open-angle glaucoma. It can stop fluid blockage if you have angle-closure glaucoma. Procedures include:

  • Trabeculoplasty: Opens the drainage area
  • Iridotomy: Makes a tiny hole in the iris to let fluid flow more freely
  • Cyclophotocoagulation: Treats areas of the middle layer of your eye to reduce fluid production

Microsurgery. In an procedure called a trabeculectomy, the doctor creates a new channel to drain the fluid and ease eye pressure. Sometimes this form of glaucoma surgery fails and has to be redone. Your doctor might implant a tube to help drain fluid. Surgery can cause temporary or permanent vision loss, as well as bleeding or infection.

Open-angle glaucoma is most often treated with various combinations of eye drops, laser trabeculoplasty, and microsurgery. Doctors in the U.S. tend to start with medications, but there’s evidence that early laser surgery or microsurgery could work better for some people.

Infant or congenital glaucoma, meaning you are born with it, is primarily treated with surgery, because the cause of the problem is a very distorted drainage system.

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