Glaucoma is an eye disease that can cause vision loss when left undetected and untreated. Vision loss occurs from damage to the optic nerve, which is the connection between the eye and the brain. This nerve can be damaged when fluid pressure within the eye is too high for the optic nerve to tolerate. The amount of pressure within the eye depends on the volume of a clear fluid called aqueous that is constantly being produced in the eye. This fluid escapes through a passage way called the trabecular meshwork. If the eye produces fluid at a rate faster than it escape, then pressure within the eye may rise to levels higher than the eye can tolerate. When this happens the nerve begins to diteriatrate slowly or perhaps rapidly depending on how high the pressure gets within the eye. If this occurs, it is often without any symptoms. It is usually not until half of the nerve fibers making up the optic nerve are damaged that a person begins experiencing symptoms of vision loss.
It is estimated that about two million Americans have glaucoma and over half of them are not aware they have this condition. People of all ages can develop glaucoma, but it most frequently occurs in people with any of the following risk factors: over 40 years of age, a family history of glaucoma, high intraocular pressure (IOP), past eye trauma, African American descent.
Aside from regular comprehensive eye examination, special testing exists for those suspected of having glaucoma, those at risk for glaucoma, and those known to have glaucoma. Special tests used at Trevino eye clinic include visual field analysis, optic nerve photography, gonioscopy, and pachymetry. Such testing serves as a baseline for future comparison. Changes in test results seen on repeated testing are useful in diagnosing glaucoma and also in determining if a person known to have glaucoma is being adequately treated to sufficiently slow or stop vision loss. Vision loss from glaucoma often affects a person’s peripheral or side vision before affecting central vision late in the disease process. Once the optic nerve has been damaged and vision has been lost, the lost vision cannot be restored. Efforts are made to prevent any further loss of vision.
When glaucoma is detected it can be treated with eye drops that help lower pressure within the eyes. Surgical options are also available when medication alone is not effective enough at lowering intraocular pressure. Early detection and treatment of glaucoma is important to preserving vision for a lifetime of enjoyment.