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Glaucoma

Glaucoma specialist in the Panama City/Bay County area

Glaucoma is a group of conditions in which high pressure inside the eye damages the optic nerve and can cause permanent, severe vision loss, even blindness if left untreated. The optic nerve is like a cable carrying 1.2 million fibers from the eye to the brain where vision is perceived. Glaucoma damage to the optic nerve is permanent, so early detection and treatment is vital to preserve sight.

Am I at risk for glaucoma?
Common risk factors are:

-A family history of glaucoma.
-African-American descent.
-Age 50 or older.
-Diabetic, smoker, or other micro-circulation problems.
-History of previous eye trauma, inflammation, or steroid use.
 
If you have any of these risk factors, you need to be checked for possible glaucoma. With proper treatment (usually eyedrops), glaucoma can be controlled and your vision preserved.

There are 2 to 3 million Americans with glaucoma; however, only half of them are aware of it. There are no early warning symptoms of glaucoma. Years of damage can occur before vision loss is noticed.

Glaucoma is the #1 cause of blindness in African-Americans and the #2 cause of blindness in the U. S. overall. It is a treatable, preventable form of vision loss if caught in time, but you must get yourself tested for glaucoma, especially if you have any of the above risk factors.

What makes the eye pressure become high?
Normally, a clear fluid called aqueous (different from tears) is created inside the front of the eye and maintains a normal eye pressure as long as it drains away at the same rate it is produced. In glaucoma, this drain system fails, but production of aqueous continues, and thus the pressure rises. This pressure pushes equally on all parts of the internal eye, but the optic nerve is where pressure can damage the delicate nerve fibers and result in vision loss.

How am I tested for glaucoma?
First, a painless test measures your eye pressure. Then your optic nerve is examined to check for any visible damage. If either of these is abnormal, your peripheral vision will be tested to look for any vision loss in the extreme periphery, which is the earliest location of damage in glaucoma. Each of these tests is done during a complete office visit.

What are the common types of glaucoma?
Open angle glaucoma (OAG) is the most common form. In this disease, the drain system is widely open, yet does not seem to let the pressure drain away normally. OAG becomes more prevalent with age and generally occurs after age 50. Some specific sub-types of OAG (pigmentary and pseudoexfoliation) occur in the 30s and 40s. Blunt trauma can damage the drain system, resulting in glaucoma even decades after the injury.

Angle closure glaucoma (ACG) is less common (about 10% of all glaucomas) but is often more severe. In ACG, the drain system is scarred closed (partially or completely), preventing aqueous fluid pressure from leaving the eye. The eye pressure can rise slowly or rapidly. Rapid pressure increase is called acute ACG and cause severe symptoms of pain, redness, blurred vision, and vomiting. Remember that this is the exception. Most other types of glaucoma have no early symptoms.

How is glaucoma treated?
Usually, only eye drops are needed to control glaucoma. In a small percentage of people, laser treatment can be helpful, especially in narrow angle glaucoma. Surgery can also be used in some patients. The best treatment is customized for each individual based upon the severity of their glaucoma and their specific needs. Each treatment has it own benefits and risks (even eye drops) and can interact with the medicines you take and affect your whole body.

Overview of glaucoma
Glaucoma is a chronic, silent, "sneak thief" of sight. There are 80,000 to 100,000 Americans blind from glaucoma, yet early detection and proper treatment can almost always prevent serious vision loss.

If you have risk factors for glaucoma, please get your eyes tested. If you have glaucoma, please continue to be carefully monitored and don't skip your eye drops.

Dr. Hasty is the only Fellowship Trained glaucoma specialist in the Panama City/Bay County area. Please call Advanced Eye Care at 850-784-3936 or 800-590-5500 for a full glaucoma evaluation.
 

Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve, the part of the eye which receives images collected by the retina and sends them to the brain.  Every eye maintains a certain amount of internal pressure, called intraocular pressure.  When this pressure rises to abnormal levels however, it can put extra stress on the optic nerve, causing significant damage.  Optic nerve damage results in loss of vision, and ultimately blindness.

The front of the eye is constantly producing a fluid called aqueous humor.  A healthy eye will continually produce small amounts of aqueous humor to ensure consistent pressure within the eye.  When normal drainage becomes slowed or blocked, pressure increases, and may lead to glaucoma.  There are several different types of glaucoma the two most common types being chronic open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma.

Chronic open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of the disease and usually develops with age.  With this type of glaucoma, pressure gradually increases around the eye causing it to work less effectively over a period of time.  There are no symptoms in the early stages of open-angle glaucoma.  Peripheral vision is usually the first to deteriorate.  As the disease becomes more advanced, blank spots begin to appear in one’s vision.  If left untreated, it eventually develops to blindness.  The best way to avoid serious vision loss is early diagnosis and treatment.

Risk factors for chronic open-angle glaucoma include:

  • Advanced age.
  • Family history of the disease.
  • Higher-than-normal intraocular pressure.
  • Certain ethnic races, particularly those of African descent.
  • Certain diseases or conditions, especially diabetes, farsightedness or nearsightedness, or previous eye trauma or surgery.

Closed-angle glaucoma is less prevalent, but is considered a real eye emergency.  This type of glaucoma occurs when a patient’s pupil moves or dilates and actually blocks off the drainage angles in the eye.  This is considered a medical emergency in which an ophthalmologist should be contacted immediately to avoid any loss of vision.

Symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma include:

  • Severe eye pain.
  • Headache.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Rainbow halos around lights.

High risk factors for closed-angle glaucoma include:

  • Extreme farsightedness.
  • An iris that is abnormally large or far back in the eye.
  • Advanced age.
  • Heredity.
  • Certain ethnic races, especially Asians.

Treatments for glaucoma:

There are a wide range of treatments for the disease, including medication, laser surgery and traditional surgery.  The treatment (or combination of treatments) for an individual is chosen based upon the type of glaucoma and other details of the particular case.  One option is medication such as prescription eye drops which help to reduce intraocular pressure, or pills called carbonic anhydrase inhibitors which slow down fluid production within the eye.

Laser surgery has also become a common treatment option for glaucoma.  For open-angle glaucoma the doctor may choose a trabeculoplasty, a painless laser procedure which uses light to shrink and stretch eye tissue to allow more drainage of fluid.  For closed-angle cases, in which the iris is blocking drainage of aqueous humor, a laser surgery called iridotomy may be preformed.

Other glaucoma treatment options involve various traditional surgeries.  A common surgery for open-angle glaucoma is the trabeculectomy, where a doctor creates a small flap in the sclera (white part of the eye).  Underneath the surface of the sclera, the doctor creates a small reservoir, called a filtration bleb, into which aqueous fluid may drain and then be disbursed, further reducing intraocular pressure.

There are a number of treatments available for Glaucoma patients.  If diagnosed with glaucoma, your ophthalmologist will consult with you on your options in order to maintain the best possible health of your eyes.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of glaucoma, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a consultation.