Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness and visual loss in the United States. Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that cause damage to the Optic Nerve in the back of the eye, usually as a result of too much fluid pressure building up inside the eye.
This damage to the Optic Nerve usually doesn’t cause any pain or noticeable vision symptoms for the patient until lots of damage has already been done. Glaucoma causes a person to lose their peripheral vision first, and then only slowly over time does the vision loss get closer and closer to the central vision that we use every day. Only when a person’s vision is nearly totally gone does the person finally notice something is wrong. Unfortunately, by this time it is often too late to save the person’s vision. This is why it is so important for patients to come in for periodic routine eye exams to ensure that they are not developing this disease.
|Vision through a healthy eye||Vision through an eye with Glaucoma|
The 2 main types of Glaucoma are Open Angle and Closed Angle Glaucoma:
Open Angle Glaucoma is the most common type, and occurs when the channels that normally take fluid out of the eye are partially blocked, so the fluid in the eye leaves the eye too slowly (this is similar to a kitchen sink that gets backed up because food particles are blocking the sink pipes). Too much fluid in the eye causes the pressure in the eye to build up, and over time this damages the Optic Nerve.
Narrow Angle Glaucoma is much less common, but causes much higher pressure to build up in the eye than Open Angle Glaucoma. Here, the channels that take the fluid out of the eye are completely blocked, so no fluid can get out of the eye at all (like a stopper being placed on the kitchen sink drain). The Optic Nerve damage can occur much more rapidly with this more rare type of glaucoma. These patients often get severe headaches, blurred vision and eye pain when the channels are blocked.
Most people with the more common Open Angle Glaucoma never notice any symptoms until it can be too late to successfully treat. This is why coming in for routine exams is so important. If Dr. Goldstick find any potential finding that would put you at high risk for developing Glaucoma, they will have you come back for more extensive testing to see if you actually have Glaucoma. These tests include special pictures of your Optic Nerve to see how healthy it is, as well as tests of your peripheral vision, called Visual Field Testing.
Treatment for Glaucoma
Once Glaucoma is diagnosed, treatment should begin as soon as possible to help minimize the risk of permanent vision loss. Although there is no cure for Glaucoma, its progression to vision loss can be slowed dramatically. With treatment to lower pressure in the eye, the Optic Nerve stays healthier for a longer time. Lowering the eye pressure can thereby preserve good vision for many years, and many times for the patient’s entire life.
Treatments for Glaucoma can often be as simple as putting a pressure-lowering eyedrop in the eyes one or two times per day to keep the pressure low. If this doesnt do the job well enough, then certain painless laser procedures can be performed to better reduce the eye pressure. Only as a last result are surgeries performed to keep the pressure low.
Dr. Goldstick specializes in the diagnosis and treatment options for Glaucoma. If you are found to be at risk for Glaucoma, or have Glaucoma, Dr. Goldstick will guide you through this entire process to ensure that your eyes can stay healthy, with good vision, for life.