What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve- the part of the eye that carries images we see to the brain. When damage to the nerve fibers occurs, blind spots develop. These blind spots usually go undetected until the optic nerve is significantly damaged. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, especially for the elderly population. But loss of sight from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.

Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?

The most important risk factors can include:

  • Age
  • Elevated eye pressure
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • African or Spanish ancestry
  • Farsightedness or nearsightedness
  • Past eye injuries
  • Thinner central corneal thickness

How Is Glaucoma Detected?

Regular eye examinations by your eye doctor are the best way to detect glaucoma. A glaucoma screening that checks only the pressure of the eye is not sufficient to determine if you have glaucoma. The only sure way to detect glaucoma is to have a complete dilated eye examination.

At Eye Care Oklahoma, we care for many patients with glaucoma. All patients receive comprehensive eye health evaluations including all basic tests for glaucoma. If we suspect glaucoma, special tests are performed including peripheral visual field testing, pachymetry (corneal thickness measurement), and optic nerve photography.

Monitoring Glaucoma Progression

Glaucoma is an eye disease that can lead to blindness if not treated. While there is no cure for glaucoma, there are effective treatments that can save your sight. If you have glaucoma, it is necessary to have regular follow up visits to your eye doctor. The purpose of these visits is to make sure that your glaucoma is well controlled and not getting worse. Glaucoma gets worse very slowly, and because there are no symptoms that you can detect to tell if your glaucoma is getting worse. So regular visits—at least 2-3 every year—are very important to make you’re your glaucoma is not getting worse. During these visits, you will likely undergo a number of tests evaluating the status of your glaucoma. At every visit, your eye pressure will be measured. High eye pressure is thought to play a role in the damage that destroys vision.

The goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower eye pressure. This is usually achieved with eye drop medications. Checking your eye pressure at each visit lets your doctor know if your drugs are still working effectively. There are several ways to measure eye pressure, including an air puff or a blue light. Your doctor may also measure the thickness of your cornea. The cornea is the clear window covering the front of the eye. The thickness of your cornea may affect the accuracy of your eye pressure measurements. Knowing your corneal thickness may help your doctor to determine your risk of getting worse from glaucoma, and to adjust your treatment to better control your glaucoma. Occasionally, your doctor will dilate your pupils to carefully examine your optic nerves. The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain, and is the structure that is damaged in glaucoma. When the optic nerve is damaged by glaucoma, you gradually lose your peripheral vision.

You may also have a computerized optic nerve scan. The purpose of these evaluations is to measure the amount of glaucoma damage you have, and to determine if your glaucoma is stable or is getting worse. If it is getting worse, your doctor will change your treatment to further lower your eye pressure. Since optic nerve damage destroys your peripheral vision, you will periodically take a visual field test to measure your peripheral vision. During this test, you will push a button when you see a small light appear in different parts of your peripheral vision. The visual field test provides your doctor with a map of your remaining peripheral vision. If your glaucoma is continuing to steal your peripheral vision over time, your doctor will change your treatment to further lower your eye pressure.

These various tests are all necessary to make sure that your eye pressure has been lowered enough to stop glaucoma from stealing your sight. Keeping your appointments faithfully, and using your eye drop medications regularly as prescribed, are important in keeping your glaucoma under control and saving your sight.

How is Glaucoma Treated?

We use state-of-the-art equipment to monitor glaucoma progression and prevent unnecessary vision loss. Treatment for glaucoma begins with eye drops that lower the pressure in the eye. This allows for less risk of optic nerve damage. Remember, if you are taking glaucoma medication, you need to have regular visits to ensure the medication is working properly. If eye drops alone don’t control your glaucoma, there are surgery options. Our doctors perform Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS) and the glaucoma laser procedure, Peripheral Iridotomy (PI) with the YAG laser.

If you are over 40 and have not had an eye examination in 2-3 years, we recommend you have a complete medical eye evaluation. To schedule a glaucoma evaluation, please call our office today!