Glaucoma, often referred to as “the sneak thief of sight”, is a progressive disease that causes damage to the optic nerve. Increased intraocular pressure in the eye results in loss of nerve fiber layers that transmit information from the eye to the brain. The term “increased” is relative to each individual patient, meaning certain patients can safely maintain an intraocular pressure of 20 without any damage while others experience vision loss with a pressure reading of 12. High pressure in the eye is caused by blocking of the drainage canal that lets fluid from inside of your eye flow out resulting in a build up of intraocular fluids. High pressure can also be caused by a narrow angle, in which the eyes anatomy leaves no room for the fluid to drain out also resulting in a build up intraocular fluids.
As glaucoma damages the optic nerve, peripheral vision is lost at a slow speed without the patient’s knowledge of any problem.
Most people with early stage glaucoma have no symptoms, pain or noticeable loss of vision from increased eye pressure. Because it is not detectable by patients in the early stages, it is important to have a regular eye exam by your doctor for diagnosis and treatment before long-term, irreversible vision loss occurs. People over 40 with a family history of glaucoma should be monitored by an ophthalmologist yearly for early detection.
Once glaucoma is detected by your ophthalmologist, there are many avenues of treatment. Your doctor may feel you are suspicious of glaucoma but are not a candidate for treatment yet and recommend you be followed at shorter (6-12 month) intervals to monitor the condition as it progresses. If treatment is initiated, the patient has a choice between glaucoma drops instilled in the eye daily to lower the eye pressure or laser surgery for glaucoma to help the fluid drain from the eye thereby lowering the eye pressure. In some cases, your doctor may elect to do surgical intervention once other methods have been tested and failed.