The eyes are extremely intricate and delicate organs, and there is a wide array of medical conditions that can negatively affect the vision. One of the most serious is glaucoma, which affects an estimated 2.2 million Americans. Despite being the second most common cause of blindness in the world, this eye illness is still poorly understood. At Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons, we believe that educating our patients is one of the best ways to help keep eyes healthy and vision sharp. Here are answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions about glaucoma.
Glaucoma usually occurs when the internal fluid pressure of the eye increases to a point that the optic nerve is damaged. Normally, the aqueous humor, a clear fluid that fills the space in the front of the eyeball between the lens and the cornea, flows out of the eye through a mesh-like channel where the cornea and iris meet. If this channel becomes blocked, the fluid does not circulate properly and the pressure builds up, causing glaucoma. In most cases, this blockage is the result of an inherited defect in the structure of the eye. Less frequently, it can also be caused by blunt or chemical injury, severe eye infection, blockage to the blood vessels in the eye, and various inflammatory conditions.
What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
Glaucoma can be difficult to detect, as there are rarely any early symptoms. The first sign of glaucoma is often the loss of peripheral or side vision, which may go unnoticed until late in the progression of the disease. In fact, early detection of glaucoma is one of the primary reasons that everyone should undergo a comprehensive eye examination every one to two years. In some cases a rapid increase in intraocular pressure may cause sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision, or the appearance of halos around lights. If these symptoms occur, patients should seek immediate medical attention.
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
Although glaucoma cannot be prevented, early detection and treatment can control the progression of the condition and reduce the chances of permanent eye damage. Many cases of glaucoma can be effectively treated with prescription eye drops and medicines that must be taken regularly. In some cases, laser therapy or the FDA-approved iStent® Trabecular Micro-Bypass medical device can prevent the loss of vision by improving the eye’s natural outflow and lowering the fluid pressure in the eye.
If you have any other questions about the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma, or would like to schedule an eye exam, please contact Georgia Eye Physicians and Surgeons today to make an appointment. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more to keep your vision healthy.