Glaucoma

Overview

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States.

Elevated pressure inside the eye creates stress on the optic nerve. If the optic nerve is damaged, vision loss occurs. In most cases, glaucoma has no pain or other symptoms until noticeable vision loss is present.

Warning Signs & Symptoms

Open-angle glaucoma has no initial symptoms. The pressure in the eye builds up gradually. At some point, the optic nerve is damaged, and side vision (peripheral vision) is lost. Without treatment, total blindness will occur.

Acute closed-angle glaucoma is the result of a sudden blockage in the normal flow of eye fluid between the iris and the lens. Symptoms include severe pain, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision and seeing a rainbow halo around lights.

Diagnosis

Most glaucoma is diagnosed through a routine pressure check, using tonometry, that is part of a comprehensive eye exam.

Treatment/Procedures

The objective of glaucoma treatment is to reduce intraocular pressure. Medicated eye drops are the most common form of treatment. The medications work well for many people, but using eye drops is more complicated than most people realize.

Your eye surgeon may also recommend one of several procedures. For closed angle glaucoma, laser iridotomy may be recommended. Laser trabeculoplasty is often used to treat open angle glaucoma.

Prevention

There is no way to prevent open-angle glaucoma, but you can prevent vision loss from the condition. Early diagnosis and careful management are the keys to preventing vision loss. Most people with open-angle glaucoma have no symptoms. Everyone over age 40 should have an eye examination at least once every five years, and more often for anyone in a high-risk group, including people with a family history of open-angle glaucoma. Those 65 and over should have an eye exam every one to two years, or as recommended by your ophthalmologist.