Glaucoma is a disease that occurs when there is an increase in the fluid pressure within the eye because the eye does not drain properly. Left untreated, over time this pressure causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve that can result in permanent vision loss. In fact, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Regular eye exams are the key to limiting the vision loss caused by glaucoma.
The second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. More than three million Americans have glaucoma, but only half are actually aware that this “silent thief” is slowly and without warning stealing away their vision, sometimes without symptoms.
The eye has about one million tiny nerve fibers that carry visual information from the back of the eye to the brain. Glaucoma destroys these nerve fibers. It was once thought that this destruction was due to high pressure within the eye, but we now know that even patients with normal pressure can have glaucoma and experience loss of this important nerve function.
Glaucoma often goes unnoticed in its early stages because it usually does not cause pain or immediate changes in vision. If you have glaucoma, you probably won’t notice any warning signs or symptoms until your vision has suffered irreversible damage.
Glaucoma typically affects people over the age of 40, but it can occur at any age. Everyone is at risk for glaucoma, but some groups are at higher risk than others. People age 65 or older, family members of those already diagnosed with glaucoma, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, diabetics, and those who are nearsighted or who have suffered severe injury to the eye are all at elevated risk. Cataract formation is another risk factor.
Again, early detection is the key to slowing or halting the progression of this disease. If you have any of these risk factors, we recommend that you schedule a thorough eye examination to evaluate for glaucoma.
Because early detection is so important to limit the vision loss associated with glaucoma, regular eye examinations are recommended. Elevated pressure within the eye and other indicators of glaucoma, such as optic nerve damage, can be detected only by a thorough examination. At Carolina Eyecare Physicians, we offer advanced state-of-the-art computerized evaluation techniques to detect early signs of optic nerve damage and peripheral vision loss associated with glaucoma.
No, but regular eye exams can make it possible to prevent much of the vision loss caused by glaucoma. The doctors of Carolina Eyecare Physicians are dedicated to providing the most advanced techniques, equipment, and expertise to help preserve the vision you need to live life on your own terms.
The two most frequently occurring types are primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. With primary open-angle glaucoma, the eye’s drainage canals are open but they have become less efficient in draining fluid. Fluid build-up causes the pressure to build up slowly over time, so you may not be aware of the problem until your optic nerve is already damaged. At first, vision remains normal. As the pressure continues to damage the optic nerve, patients may notice a loss or blurring of their side vision. If left untreated, the field of vision continues to narrow more and more, leading to eventual blindness.
In angle-closure glaucoma, the iris (the part of the eye that creates eye color) blocks the entrance to the drainage canal, sometimes causing the pressure within the eye to build up suddenly. Symptoms of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack include severe eye pain, red eye, blurred vision, headache, nausea, and vomiting. This is a true emergency that can lead to blindness if not treated promptly. More commonly, however, the iris blocks the entrance to the drainage canal more slowly and causes chronic angle-closure glaucoma. Cataract formation, too, can sometimes lead to angle closure. A thorough eye exam can detect narrow angles that are at risk of closure. Laser treatment to the iris can usually prevent angle-closure glaucoma.
Although there currently is no cure for glaucoma, there are several effective treatment options to slow or halt the progression of this disease. Carolina Eyecare Physicians is the leader in bringing our patients the latest advances for the treatment of glaucoma.
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