At Hawaii Eye Institute, our specialist will help you determine your risk factors for developing glaucoma, diagnose your symptoms, and provide the best and most beneficial treatment options.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States, especially for aging adults. Loss of sight from glaucoma is preventable if you seek early treatment.
Glaucoma (the sneak thief of eye sight) refers to certain eye diseases that affect the optic nerve which ultimately causes vision loss. The optic nerve transfers images we view to the brain to be coded and recognized. When the nerve is damaged, these images no longer have the ability to be detected. Glaucoma typically produces elevated pressure inside the eye, called intraocular pressure (IOP). The higher the pressure inside the eye, the greater the chance of damage to the optic nerve.
The optic nerve is like an electric cable containing a huge number of wires. Glaucoma can damage nerve fibers, causing blind spots to develop as each "wire" is affected.
Often, people don't notice these blind areas until much optic nerve damage has taken place. If the entire nerve is destroyed, blindness results.
Early detection and treatment is important and is the key to preventing full optic nerve damage and blindness.
What Causes Glaucoma?
There are many types of glaucoma and different theories for which is the exact cause. Although the definite cause is unknown, glaucoma is usually associated with an increase in the pressure inside the eye due to excess fluid. Four types of glaucoma include:
Primary open-angle glaucoma—The most common form of glaucoma. With glaucoma, the eye's drainage system becomes insufficient (usually occurring with age), which leads to an increased amount of fluid and gradual build up of pressure within the eye. Poor perfusion (blood flow), to the optic nerve is also thought to be a cause of glaucoma. Damage to the optic nerve is slow and painless and a large portion of vision can be lost before vision problems are noticed.
Angle-closure glaucoma—The less common form of the disease. This type of glaucoma occurs when the drainage angle (formed by the cornea and the iris) in the eye becomes blocked. As aging progresses, the lens of the eye becomes larger which pushes the iris forward, resulting in a narrowed space (drainage angle) between the iris and the cornea. When the drain becomes blocked, the aqueous fluid is unable to exit, resulting in a build up of fluid and an increase in eye pressure.
This type of glaucoma can have a sudden onset; so it is important to quickly seek treatment for the following symptoms in order to avoid blindness:
- Blurred vision
- Severe eye pain
- Rainbow halos around lights
- Nausea and vomiting
Secondary glaucoma—This type of glaucoma occurs as a result of an injury or other eye disease. It may be caused by a variety of medical conditions, medications, physical injuries, and eye abnormalities. Infrequently, eye surgery can be associated with secondary glaucoma.
Normal-tension glaucoma—In this form of glaucoma, eye pressure remains within what is considered to be the “normal” range; however, the optic nerve is damaged.
Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?
- African ancestry
- A family history of glaucoma
- Past injuries to the eyes
- A history of severe anemia or shock
Your Hawaii Eye Institute doctor will help you determine your risk factors through a family history and eye exam.
How Can ITreat My Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is usually treated with eye drops, although lasers and surgery can also be used. Most cases can be controlled well with these treatments, thereby preventing further loss of vision. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preserving sight in individuals with glaucoma.