You may be going blind and not know it.
This is what happens when you have glaucoma, which eye doctors call the ‘silent thief of sight.’ Because it’s stealthy, glaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the United States and around the world. Sometimes, significant damage has already taken place before it is even noticed.
This is why getting regular, comprehensive eye exams is crucial to detect the disease early on and get treatment before further vision loss happens. At Focus Eye Care & Surgery, our New York eye specialist, Dr. Neelofar Ghaznawi, is board-certified to provide medical and surgical treatments to specialized ophthalmic conditions.
If you suspect you have glaucoma, schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam with us today so you can take action early and save your vision.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve, which connects the eyes to the brain.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve, which connects the eyes to the brain. The optic nerve is responsible for sending electrical impulses to the brain, which the brain then interprets.
Often, glaucoma is caused by high intraocular pressure, or pressure inside the eyes.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
In its early stages, there are no warning signs of a developing glaucoma. Only later when the disease has progressed you may start to notice:
- gradual loss of peripheral vision, as if looking through a tunnel
- blurred vision
- colored rings around lights
If glaucoma does develop suddenly, you may see or feel:
- a headache
- red eyes
- tenderness around the eye area
- severe eye pain
- nausea and vomiting
- colored rings around lights
This sudden onset of symptoms may signal an acute attack, which requires emergency care to prevent blindness.
At present, loss of vision due to glaucoma is not reversible. But with prompt detection and treatment, vision can be saved or further vision loss can be avoided.
How do you know if you have glaucoma?
The only way to find out if you have glaucoma is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam.
The eye doctor will look through your wide open eyes with a special instrument to examine the health of the optic nerve. When there is damage, the cupping (depression in the middle) of the optic nerve when viewed from the front of the eyes is enlarged due to high intraocular pressure.
What is intraocular pressure?
The intraocular pressure (IOP) is the pressure inside the eyes. For the eye to maintain its globular shape, the IOP should range somewhere from 10–21 mm Hg.
It is possible, however, to have IOP higher than normal and not experience any injury to the optic nerve. Conversely, it is possible to have IOP lower than the rest of the population and sustain damage to the optic nerve. This is because some people have sensitive optic nerves susceptible to any slight increase in IOP.
Why is intraocular pressure important?
Normal intraocular pressure is vital in maintaining the globular shape of the eyeballs. If IOP is too low, the eyeball may be ‘deflated,’ which also causes visual impairment or vision loss.
What causes high IOP?
Normal IOP is maintained by the equal secretion and outflow of aqueous humor. This clear, watery fluid is secreted by the ciliary body located between the iris, the colored part of the eyes, and the natural lens just behind it. Aside from maintaining pressure within the eye, the aqueous humor nourishes and cleanses the lens.
In a normal eye, the fluid flows out of the pupil, the opening of the iris. It then drains out of the trabecular meshwork, a porous channel in the sides of the cornea. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped surface layer of the eyes.
Finally, the aqueous humor collects in the Schlemm’s canal before it exits via the episcleral veins, and out into the body.
Any obstruction in this process causes fluid to build up, pressing onto the lens, which in turn, presses onto the optic nerve.
What are the types of glaucoma?
In glaucoma, the angle refers to the meeting point between the cornea and iris. The most common types of glaucoma are:
- Open-angle glaucoma
In open-angle glaucoma, the angle is wide open without obstructions. Fluid backs up because of clogged trabecular meshwork or episcleral veins. Over time, this buildup increases the IOP.
The trabecular meshwork may not drain properly due to certain diseases, such as scleritis, or inflammation of the sclera, the white portion of the eye.
Protrusion of the eyeballs secondary to a hyperactive thyroid (exophthalmic goiter) may also block the episcleral veins even as the trabecular meshwork drains well.
- Narrow-angle glaucoma
In this type of glaucoma, the angle is narrow and sometimes even closed; hence the alternate name ‘angle-closure’ glaucoma. This could be because when the iris dilates, it presses too close to the cornea. As there is no way for fluid to drain out of the eyes, it builds up and leads to high IOP.
- Normal pressure glaucoma
Intraocular pressure is within normal range and yet there is damage to the optic nerve. This could be because the nerve is susceptible to even slight increases in IOP.
What are the treatment options for glaucoma?
Depending on the severity of your glaucoma, your treatment may include oral medications, prescription eyedrops, conventional surgery, or laser surgery.
At Focus Eye Care & Surgery, our eye surgeon in New York uses the latest surgical techniques and cutting-edge laser technology to perform FDA-approved laser glaucoma surgery in an office setting.
- Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) – laser is focused to the eyes through a contact lens to initiate a change in the eye structure that declogs or exposes the trabecular meshwork. Eye surgeons often use this technique as a first line treatment for open-angle and normal pressure glaucoma.
- Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI) – laser is focused to the edge of the iris to create a pinprick hole where the aqueous humor can seep out. As the pressure behind the iris lowers, the angle opens up, allowing the fluid to drain properly. This laser technique is typically used to treat and prevent acute attacks of narrow-angle glaucoma.