Several diseases affect the eye, either directly or as part of a system-wide problem. Often serious, these conditions require immediate professional eye care to preserve your vision. Thanks to modern advances in eye care knowledge and technologies, most eye conditions and diseases, specifically glaucoma, are treatable by a Vision Care Specialists’ glaucoma specialist.
— Bob D., Highlands Ranch Location
“I have been to other eye care places to help me manage my glaucoma and they were not very helpful, then I tried Vision Care Specialists. Dr. K., and everyone from the front desk to the techs have been great.”
What is it?
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes painless and irreversible optic nerve damage. Your optic nerve is the part of your eye that is responsible for carrying images from your retina (the light-sensing tissue in your eye). These images are communicated to your brain, so that it can make sense of the images, thus giving you the sense of sight. However, when a patient experiences glaucoma optic nerve damage, their eyesight can be severely diminished.
The eye is constantly producing and circulating a clear aqueous humor that moves through drainage canals of the anterior chamber angle in the front of the eye near the iris. When this clear fluid is unable to escape, often due to a blockage, fluid builds in the eye and increases pressure on the optic nerve, which is known as Glaucoma. Glaucoma, if left untreated, can lead to vision loss.
The vision loss will generally be experienced in the form of peripheral vision loss, which may not be noticeable to the patient until significant optic nerve damage has already occurred because of possible compensating by turning the head from side to side. If a glaucoma diagnosis is not made and the eye is left untreated, the damaged optic nerve will result in loss of central vision as well. For this reason, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness, particularly among older patients. The early signs of glaucoma should be taken very seriously, and followed closely by your eye doctor.
There are two forms/types of glaucoma:
- Open-Angle Glaucoma – The most common type of glaucoma, patients with open-angle glaucoma will exhibit no symptoms until they begin to gradually lose their peripheral vision. Though its cause is unknown, people with a higher risk of open-angle glaucoma include patients with a family history of open-angle glaucoma and certain ethnicities.
- Angle Closure Glaucoma – Unlike open-angle glaucoma, angle closure glaucoma does exhibit symptoms, which include headaches, blurry vision and pain, and nausea. Angle closure glaucoma occurs when the drainage canals become blocked and requires immediate medical treatment.
Glaucoma is not uncommon, though it is more generally considered a hereditary disease. Although high eye pressure is a common risk factor of glaucoma, it does not necessarily equate to a glaucoma diagnosis. In addition to high eye pressure levels, there are several other factors that would qualify you as having a higher risk of glaucoma, prompting close attention by your eye doctor.
- Those over 60 years old have a 6 times greater risk.
- Thinner than average cornea
- Family history of glaucoma can mean a 4 times greater risk.
- Past blunt force eye injuries
- African American, Asians and Hispanics
- High blood pressure
- Steroid use for asthma and other conditions
Required Medical Diagnosis
Glaucoma is not a condition you should attempt to self-diagnose. It is critical that you consult with an eye doctor to evaluate your eye health and to make the appropriate diagnosis. Because glaucoma is an extremely time-sensitive disease, you should not neglect your regular check-ups. Early detection and diagnosis can mean a world of difference for your treatment options and preservation of eyesight.
In order to determine your risk for glaucoma, your doctor will first discuss your eye health and history with you at length. He or she may ask questions about family history, ancestry, any past eye injuries, personal medical history, and medication use. All of these questions will help to determine whether you are a candidate for diagnostic testing.
Diagnostic testing is helpful in diagnosing and managing glaucoma. At Vision Care Specialists we utilize the latest technology and eye imaging equipment. In combination with a comprehensive eye exam, utilizing the tests below will assist our eye care specialists in determining if you are experiencing vision loss due to glaucoma.
- Visual Field (VF) testing is conducted by staring straight ahead into the VF machine and clicking a button when you notice a blinking light in your peripheral vision. The visual field test may be repeated at regular intervals to make sure you are not developing blind spots from damage to the optic nerve or to determine the extent or progression of vision loss from glaucoma.
- Ocular coherenceTomography (OCT) imaging captures micrometer-resolution, three-dimensional images of the inner eye to help diagnose and monitor glaucoma before it gets to the vision loss stage.
- Gonioscopy also may be performed to make sure the aqueous humor (or “aqueous”) can drain freely from the eye. In gonioscopy, special lenses are used with a biomicroscope to enable your glaucoma specialist to see the structure inside the eye (called the drainage angle) that controls the outflow of aqueous and thereby affects intraocular pressure.
Signs & Symptoms
Known as the “silent thief of sight,” open angle glaucoma, typically causes no pain and produces no symptoms until noticeable vision loss occurs. For this reason, glaucoma often progresses undetected until the optic nerve already has been irreversibly damaged, with varying degrees of permanent vision loss.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma symptoms may occur suddenly and can include blurry vision, halos around lights, intense eye pain, nausea and vomiting. If you have these symptoms, make sure you immediately call a Vision Care Specialists glaucoma specialist or visit the emergency room immediately so steps can be taken to prevent permanent vision loss.
Types of Doctors to Consult
To learn more about glaucoma, as well as evaluate your personal risk level for developing the disease, you should consult with your eye doctor.
Glaucoma is a serious condition that, if left untreated, can result in permanent vision loss. As with most medical conditions, early treatment of glaucoma is imperative to prevent vision loss. Treatment for glaucoma depends on the type of glaucoma that has been diagnosed. In most cases, treatment is centered on lowering the IOP of the eye to relieve pressure on the optic nerve. Vision Care Specialists offers medical (eye drops and pills) and laser surgical vision solutions for the treatment of glaucoma.
Once diagnosed with glaucoma, one of our Colorado eye doctors will schedule you to be seen in the office for multiple times in addition to your comprehensive eye examination to monitor the progression of your glaucoma. Glaucoma treatment and regular monitoring is imperative to prevent further vision loss.
Vision Care Specialists has the most experienced practice in the Rocky Mountain Region. Our eye doctors and exceptional staff provide you with the widest array of current options for optimizing your vision.
At Vision Care Specialists, one of the most common questions patients ask is “how is glaucoma prevented?” Our answer to this question is simple: proactive prevention. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, early detection is critical. In the event that a glaucoma diagnosis is reached, the more quickly a treatment can be put into place, the more likely that a patient will be able to preserve their eyesight. Some of the best glaucoma doctors in the nation are on our team, and they are prepared to act quickly to save a patient’s precious sense of sight.
We encourage everyone, whether they are a Vision Care Specialists patient or not, to be responsible and make regular appointments for eye health check-ups. Those check-ups will enable an eye doctor to evaluate glaucoma risk factors, as well as detect the earliest signs and symptoms. Our offices are currently accepting patients, and our team of professionals is dedicated to making eye health accessible to all our patients. Book your appointment online today, and take the first step towards making your vision a top priority.