Patient Education >> Glaucoma

Glaucoma Diagram

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition that affects the optic nerve, which is the key to carrying information to the brain. It tends to be a silent disease and is usually detected on routine eye examinations. Glaucoma is an increase in pressure in the eyes that can cause damage to the optic nerves. The optic nerves are the major nerves of the eyes and when nerves are damaged, it is not a reversible situation. Glaucoma can cause progressive damage to the optic nerve that generally begins with a subtle loss of side vision (peripheral vision). If glaucoma is not diagnosed and treated, it can progress to loss of central vision and blindness.

Although the definite mechanics of the elevated pressure in the eyes is not fully understood, we do know that there seems to be a slower removal of the fluid from the eye that is naturally being produced. Of importance is the fact that you do not feel or sense that a problem is going on in the early stages of the disease. That is why it is important to follow your doctor's instructions carefully because you cannot gauge how well the treatment is going.

In most cases early diagnosis and treatment can prevent serious damage to the eyes. You should know that open angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma; however, there are other forms too.

Glaucoma is usually detected by an eye doctor who measures the intraocular pressure in the eye with an instrument called a tonometer. This is a painless test and just takes a few minutes. Besides pressure monitoring, your doctor may periodically want to examine your visual field and also will want to take a look at your optic nerves.

What are the risk factors for glaucoma?

Age, family history, eye pressure, history of trauma, underlying medical conditions and medication use are some main risks for developing glaucoma. It is recommended that patients with a family history have routine eye examinations.

What is the treatment for glaucoma?

Treatment for glaucoma is usually eye drops or oral medication, although your doctor may advise either laser surgery or a filtering operation if the drops or medications are not preventing advancement of the disease process. Of essential importance is that you follow the instructions for your medications very carefully. It is best that you bring your medicines in with you each time you visit the doctor.

On examination, it is important to establish the diagnosis and whether there is a secondary cause for glaucoma. Most often, treatment is focused on lowering eye pressure. Eye drops, laser, and surgery are options for lowering eye pressure, depending on the amount of damage to the optic nerve. Treatment is tailored to each individual.

On the day that you see the doctor it is requested that you use the eye drops. If you are requested to take more than one eye drop it is suggested that you separate the two eye drops by at least fifteen minutes apart so that you are getting the full benefit from each drop.

If you are bothered by a bad taste in your mouth from the eye drops, you will find that holding your fingers at the middle corners of your eyelids will prevent this from happening.

Most importantly, it is essential that you keep your scheduled appointments so that the doctor may monitor your control. Although glaucoma is a potentially serious eye problem, with monitoring the condition can usually be controlled.

It should be emphasized that when you stop your eye drops, there will be a tendency for the pressure to go back up in your eyes, thus stressing the importance of taking your eye drops on a regular basis.