What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a progressive condition where the intraocular pressure in the eye increases, causing damage to the optic nerve fibers. In a normal eye, fluid flows constantly in and out of the anterior chamber, keeping the intraocular pressure at a normal level. In an eye with glaucoma, the passages that normally allow the fluid to drain become blocked. No one is sure why this happens, but unless the pressure is controlled, permanent vision loss occurs.

As of now, there is no cure for glaucoma. However, the ophthalmologists at Memphis Eye and Cataract Associates can detect the signs of glaucoma early and develop a treatment plan that will play an essential role in slowing the progression of the disease and preventing irreversible vision loss.

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Who Is at Risk of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the United States, currently affecting over 3 million Americans. Individuals who are especially at risk for glaucoma include those who:

  • Are age 60 and older
  • Have a family history of glaucoma
  • Are African American
  • Are diabetic
  • Are very nearsighted
  • Have a previous eye injury

Narrow or Closed Angle Glaucoma

This type of glaucoma occurs when the mechanism of draining the eye fluid cannot keep up with the production. The iris may sit too close to the drainage angle and block the fluid from draining. The eye pressure can build rapidly, causing sudden symptoms to occur, including blurred vision, severe pain, nausea, headache, halos around lights and redness of the eye. This condition requires immediate attention from your ophthalmologist. Blindness can result if it is not treated immediately.

Chronic Open Angle Glaucoma

Chronic open angle glaucoma is the most common type of the disease. It develops gradually and produces few, if any, symptoms in its early stages. This is why eye physicians refer to this condition as “The Silent Thief of Sight.” Most people are not aware that they have the disease until permanent damage has occurred.

Diagnosing Glaucoma

Early detection of glaucoma is essential to avoid irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma can only be diagnosed through comprehensive eye examinations with a board-certified eye doctor. The eye physicians at MECA routinely check the health of the optic nerve and the intraocular pressure to detect any abnormal changes. If glaucoma is suspected, a number of screening tests can be performed. These tests are designed to measure peripheral and distance vision, the thickness of the cornea and pressure inside the eye. Our doctors can perform the following:

Visual Field Testing (Perimetry Testing)

A visual field test is the primary method for evaluating peripheral vision. A visual field test can check whether a narrowing of the visual field (i.e., tunnel vision) has occurred, which is a common symptom of glaucoma.

Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT)

This advanced vision test uses light waves to take cross-section images of the retina, allowing the doctor to view its distinctive layers. Not only can OCT help detect glaucoma, it can also help our team develop a plan for treating the disease.

Treatment Options for Glaucoma

Without treatment, glaucoma will continue to progress and eventually cause blindness. Treatments are designed to lower the pressure inside the eye, controlling the glaucoma and preventing any loss of vision. For most people, the treatment will consist of special eye drops used on a daily basis. Regular follow-up visits will ensure that intraocular pressure is under control and no additional damage to the optic nerve has occurred.

If the intraocular pressure cannot be controlled with eye drops or if the damage is extensive, alternative treatments may be recommended to prevent glaucoma from progressing. Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) is a minimally invasive procedure that uses a special laser beam to selectively open the drainage passageways within the trabecular meshwork (the area responsible for draining the fluid from the eye). In more advanced cases, surgery might be necessary to create a new drain to filter the excess fluid out of the eye.

Frequently Asked Questions about Glaucoma

Is there a cure for glaucoma?

As of now, there is no cure for glaucoma. However, early detection (via regular eye examinations) is critical to preventing permanent vision loss.

Can the effects of glaucoma be reversed with treatment?

Unfortunately, the vision loss caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed. However, with proper treatment, the progression of the disease can be slowed down.

How often should I get my eyes examined?

How often you should get an eye exam depends on several factors. According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, adults with good eye health should get their eyes checked:

  • Every two to four years before age 40
  • Every one to three years between ages 40 and 54
  • Every one to two years between ages 55 and 64
  • At least once a year after age 65

Individuals with a heightened risk for glaucoma and other eye diseases should get their eyes tested every year or two after age 35. Your eye doctor can determine how often you should undergo an eye exam upon evaluating your eye health and medical history.

Contact Memphis Eye and Cataract Associates

To learn more about glaucoma, or the treatment options Memphis Eye and Cataract Associates, offers, schedule a consultation with one of our board certified ophthalmologists. Contact our office by calling (901) 767-3937 or (800) 393-7185 today.