Glaucoma, a condition that damages the eye’s optic nerve, is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over age 60. Because vision loss due to glaucoma can’t be recovered, it’s important to have regular eye exams that include measurements of your eye pressure. The earlier the diagnosis for glaucoma, the better the chance that vision loss can be prevented or slowed. As a general rule, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a complete eye exam every five to 10 years for people under age 40; every two to four years for those ages 40 to 54 years old, and every one to three years if you’re between ages 55 and 64.
In Largo, Florida, St. Michael’s Eye & Laser Institute provides comprehensive eye exams and effective treatment for glaucoma that can include surgery. As a family-owned and -operated eye-care clinic serving the Tampa Bay area, our goal is to ensure that our patients understand exactly what glaucoma is and how best to preserve their vision.
What Is Glaucoma?
At the front of the eye, between the colored iris and the cornea—the eye’s clear protective outer layer—there is a small fluid-filled area called the anterior chamber. As with blood pressure, the pressure in this chamber—called intraocular pressure or IOP—should not be too elevated. Increased pressure is called glaucoma. When this pressure gets too high, irreversible damage to the optic nerve can occur, which can result in blindness.
Causes of Glaucoma
In most cases, increased pressure results from the eye’s inability to drain fluids from the anterior chamber properly. Fluids are constantly flowing into the chamber and must be able to drain out where the cornea meets the iris at its outer edges. But when the eye’s drainage channels become clogged, glaucoma may develop. This is referred to as open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the condition.
In acute angle-closure glaucoma, abnormalities in eye structures, such as a bulging iris, blocks drainage of the fluids.
Secondary glaucoma exists when there is another health condition triggering the drainage problem, such as diabetes, a tumor, or trauma. In this case, both the glaucoma and the primary condition must be treated.
Some children are born with congenital glaucoma, which results from abnormalities that developed as the eye formed.
Perhaps the most important aspect to know about glaucoma is that it often progresses painlessly. Unfortunately, by the time glaucoma symptoms appear, the optic nerve could be irreparably damaged. Still, it’s important to know that glaucoma symptoms include:
- Blurred vision
- Intense eye pain
- Glare around lights
- Nausea and vomiting
- Light sensitivity
How Is Glaucoma Detected & Diagnosed?
There are several tests that provide a complete picture of the eye’s health. To test for glaucoma eye disease, your doctor will visually examine the optic nerve and use a special device to examine the structures at the front of the eye to evaluate its ability to drain fluids properly. Your IOP will be tested along with your peripheral vision. Through regularly scheduled eye exams, your eye doctor can detect small changes that may be the first signs of glaucoma.
How Do You Treat Glaucoma?
The most common treatment is the use of eye drops to reduce IOP. Some people may need more than one type of medicated drops. If medication fails to reduce the IOP, laser treatment for glaucoma may be needed to improve the ability of the eye to drain fluids. The goal of this procedure is to improve the eye’s drainage channels.
Glaucoma Treatment at St. Michael’s Eye & Laser Institute
Since our founding in 1961, we have performed successful glaucoma surgery on thousands of patients with different forms of the condition. Our doctors are experts in laser treatment for glaucoma. Furthermore, our leading-edge use of vision technology has earned us an Alcon Center of Excellence award every year since our founding. For a new focus on life that includes comprehensive glaucoma prevention and treatment, contact St. Michael’s Eye & Laser Institute. We’re committed to offering the highest standard of patient care to our patients in Largo and other Tampa Bay communities.