Glaucoma is a common cause of vision loss and blindness especially as people get older. Glaucoma can be particularly dangerous because many people have it and are not aware of having glaucoma, so a lot of vision loss can occur before treatment is started. In very simple terms, glaucoma means the pressure in your eye is too high. All eyes need to have some pressure in them, otherwise the eye could not hold its shape.
When the pressure rises to an excessive level this can gradually damage the optic nerve and vision can slowly be lost. Since there is usually no pain associated with this process and since the vision loss starts with side vision at first, glaucoma patients can have no symptoms at all until it is almost too late to save any vision. This is the dangerous part of glaucoma and we frequently diagnose glaucoma in patients who have no idea there is anything wrong with their vision even though we can measure a loss of vision. In this situation screening is very important. Even though vision loss is usually very slow, occurring over many years time, anything lost can never be regained!
There is a less common type of glaucoma called acute angle closure glaucoma. With this type of glaucoma the pressure rises very high very quickly and this disease is very painful. Patients have blurred vision and severe pain, often with nausea and vomiting. This can occur suddenly and a lot of vision can be lost in a short time. It is more common in patients with either far-sighted eyes or cataracts.
Another less common type of glaucoma is called low-tension glaucoma. Here the pressure is not excessively high but vision loss is still occurring.
Fortunately glaucoma can be successfully treated in almost all cases, but only if we know you have it. The lesson we can take home from all this is that everyone needs to be screened for glaucoma. If you are old enough to read this and you have never been checked for glaucoma, you should have this checked. Screening should be done more frequently as birthdays keep happening since glaucoma gets more common the older we get.
At Medicus we always check for glaucoma with every complete eye examination. We can discuss how often you should be re-evaluated based on age, family history and eye conditions. If glaucoma is discovered we have many effective treatments to offer including medications, laser or surgery.