What is Glaucoma?
Every time you come in for a regular eye exam at Millennium Park Eye Center we perform a glaucoma test. You know the one — we deliver a puff of air onto your eye to measure the eye’s resistance to the air. This tells us the intraocular pressure within your eye. If the pressure is higher than normal, you’re at risk for glaucoma.
But what is this eye disease?
It comes down to the optic nerve
A glaucoma is a collective group of disorders that can damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting information from what you see to the brain for interpretation. When this nerve is damaged, your vision is impaired, and as it worsens, it can lead to complete vision loss.
When a person has glaucoma, the intraocular pressure inside the eye is abnormally high. Pressure is needed inside the eye to keep the balance of fluids inside the eye, but glaucoma causes this pressure to increase, damaging the optic nerve. Fluid movement within the eye becomes irregular and builds up.
Primary open angle glaucoma
The most common form of glaucoma is called primary angle. This occurs when the fluid in the eye, called aqueous humor, doesn’t flow properly through the drain of the eye. This causes the intraocular pressure in the eye to build gradually, leading to damage to the optic nerve. The build up of pressure is slow and painless with primary open angle glaucoma; that’s why it’s important to have regular eye exams to keep tabs on the pressure in your eyes.
This form of glaucoma is much less common, but its effect can quickly be devastating. Blockage of the internal drainage of the eye leads to rapid increase in eye pressure and permanent optic nerve damage, often within just hours. This form of glaucoma has symptoms such as eye pain, eye redness, blurred vision with haloes, and nausea or vomiting.
Glaucoma and blindness
As glaucoma progresses, the patient suffers increasing vision loss. If allowed to continue, this leads to total blindness. But this isn’t a given — early detection of glaucoma can greatly slow the advance of the disease.
Treating glaucoma involves three possible strategies. The preferred treatment is the use of medicated eye drops that are formulated to reduce intraocular pressure. If that treatment is unsuccessful, laser surgery or microsurgery may be necessary.
The best way to head off the effects of glaucoma is early detection. Schedule your next eye exam with the team at Millennium Eye Center by calling 312-996-2020.