Glaucoma is a group of progressive ocular diseases that occur when the intraocular pressure damages the optic nerve and ultimately causes permanent vision loss.  High pressure occurs when there is a build up of fluid that would usually drain.  There are many different types of glaucoma but they can be categorized into two groups: open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma.

Open-angle glaucoma is the more common of the two.  One can think of open-angle glaucoma similarly to a clogged sink; at first the build up is barely noticeable, and gradually worsens over time.  A more colloquial term for open-angle glaucoma is the 'silent thief of sight', due to the fact that the early stages of the disease go unnoticed.  Up to 50% of the optic nerve may be damaged before the patient notices vision loss.  The typical symptoms the patient may first notice with open-angle glaucoma are needing better lighting, having blurred vision, and loss of peripheral vision.  This is not a comprehensive list.  Glaucoma patients may find they have all, none, or only some of these symptoms and as the disease progresses, the symptoms worsen.

Currently there is no cure for open-angle glaucoma, nor is there any treatment for reversing vision loss caused by this disease.  However, there are treatments that will slow down the progression of the disease to keep the patient seeing as long as possible.  Treatments range from eye drops that when used everyday will lower the intraocular pressure, to several types of surgery.  In the US the first line of therapy is topical eye drops.  There are different types of drops with different mechanisms of action.  If the drops do not reduce the intraocular pressure enough, then surgical options are introduced as part of the therapy.

Acute angle-closure glaucoma is less common than open-angle glaucoma, but it is more serious since the vision loss is more sudden.  During angle-closure glaucoma the iris, the colored part of the eye, shifts and blocks the drainage angle in the eye.  This causes a rapid spike in the intraocular pressure.  Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a true ocular emergency.  This can cause blindness within hours.  The symptoms for acute angle-closure are sudden blurred vision, redness of the eye, sudden severe eye pain, headache, and nausea.  If you notice any of the following symptoms it is imperative that you call your eye doctor immediately.  There are preventative surgical options for angle closure, which will increase the drainage and reduce the chances of damage to the optic nerve.

Since there are treatments to reduce the progression of damage from open-angle glaucoma and to prevent a spike in intraocular pressure for acute angle-closure glaucoma, the best way to prevent vision loss is to get an annual exam.  Even though the patient may not know they have the disease, their eye doctor can detect it at an early stage and start them on treatment.  If it's been more than a year since you last saw an optometrist, then it's time.  If you don't have an optometrist, we are accepting new patients.  You can stop in at any time during normal business hours or call us to schedule an eye exam.