What Is Glaucoma?

Dec 14, 2020

Glaucoma is an eye disease with the potential result of blindness if not treated adequately. It is a condition when the eye’s optic nerve suffers from damage and cannot send reliable information from your eyes to the visual centers in your brain. One of the apparent causes of glaucoma is high pressure in one or both eyes. However, eye pressure can also be normal in situations when glaucoma is detected.

One of the biggest problems with glaucoma is that you cannot have early signs and warning elements. Everything could be normal, but your pressure in one or both eyes can be that high that glaucoma can be already present as a condition. This can eventually lead to peripheral vision loss, and in the worst case, it can lead to blindness.

Some parts of the population are at a greater risk of having glaucomas, like Hispanics and African Americans. However, glaucoma usually occurs in all races and populations ages. This is why regular checkups must be present among everyone who wants to keep eye vision healthy and free from diseases.

If it is detected early, the condition like glaucoma can be slowed down, and you can save your vision in the long term. If there is no treatment, and glaucoma is already there, you risk eye vision loss and many other troubles with untreated glaucoma. The only way to protect from glaucoma is by doing preventive checkups and comprehensive eye exams.

What Causes Glaucoma?

The number one reason for glaucoma is high pressure inside an eye. This is not always the case because there are cases when glaucoma exists even if the pressure in the eye is normal.

It is easier to understand glaucoma by a simple understanding of eye anatomy. The front area of an eye is filled with a fluid called aqueous humor. The fluid nourishes the eye tissues and helps to maintain the normal eye shape. The ciliary body is producing aqueous humor. At the same time, the ciliary body is located behind the iris. There is also the trabecular meshwork in the angle inside the front of the eye, where the cornea and iris meet.

In normal conditions, the ciliary body drains the liquid from the eye through the trabecular meshwork. The vital balance between how much aqueous humor is being produced by the ciliary body and drains is called intraocular pressure (IOP), and it is the pressure inside the eye.

If the drainage angle is closed down or the trabecular meshwork is clogged, the aqueous humor cannot drain from the eyes fast enough. This eventually leads to IOP increases that are beyond the normal range. It leads to higher risks of potential glaucoma in patients.

The usual type of glaucoma is when IOP is too high for too long. The pressure puts outward pressure on the eye’s inner walls, which damages the optic nerve in the back of the eye. Therefore, the eye cannot transmit the information to the brain.

High eye pressure and glaucoma can be the results of several factors that include:

  • Predisposition to glaucoma
  • 60 years or older
  • Diabetes or high blood pressure as underlying conditions
  • Trauma or eye injury
  • Extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness
  • Thin corneas (the thin layer in front of the pupils)

Eye pressure can increase very slowly, and it can take several years before it starts to damage the optic nerve, or it can occur very slowly. For all these reasons, early detection and high eye pressure treatment are the key to glaucoma prevention.

Types of Glaucoma – Definitions

You can find several types of glaucoma, and these include the following conditions.

Open-angle glaucoma – Also called primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), is the most common type of glaucoma. It is a condition when the aqueous humor doesn’t drain from the eye fast enough, which leads to higher pressure inside the eye.

Angle-closure glaucoma – Also called closed-angle glaucoma, is the condition when the iris bows forward. When the iris is forward, the drainage angle is completely cut off, and symptoms can include severe pain, nausea, and red eyes. It requires a medical emergency and fast treatment to prevent eye vision loss. This is a rare form of glaucoma.

Secondary glaucoma – Can occur in either open-angle or closed-angle glaucoma form, and it is usually the result of another eye condition, illness, or injury.

Developmental glaucoma – Can be present from birth or result from an injury in childhood. It is also known as congenital glaucoma, childhood glaucoma, or pediatric glaucoma.

Normal-tension glaucoma – This is the type of glaucoma that occurs in the optic nerve, and it can lead to vision loss even if the intraocular pressure is in the normal range. The cause of this type of glaucoma is unknown, but it can be related to reduced blood flow to the optic nerve.

What Is Part of the “Glaucoma Test”?

When you take a comprehensive eye exam, your doctor will determine if you are at a higher risk of getting glaucoma. One of these tests examines the overall IOP, and it is called tonometry. Most people call this test a “glaucoma test.” The test is a quick and painless test that is part of your routine eye exam.

Two basic types of tonometry include:

  • Applanation tonometry – a numbing drop is applied to your eyes to measure your IOP. A device smaller than an eye lens is applied to an eye, and it briefly touches your eye. The test is painless, and this measurement is considered the most accurate form of IOP testing.
  • Non-contact tonometry – when the test doesn’t require the numbing drop. In this case, you face an instrument that measures your eye pressure with a gentle puff of air to the surface of your eye.

Both applanation and non-contact tonometry are very important during your “glaucoma test.” The doctor may also conduct other tests, like the inspection of the drainage angle of the eyes (gonioscopy), the measurements of the thickness of your corneas, and the examination of the appearance of the optic nerve, as part of your eye examination.

How to Treat Glaucoma?

The most usual treatments for glaucoma are eye drops, laser treatments, and surgical procedures. All these therapeutic and surgical methods can prevent, slow down, or stop glaucoma if done on time and consider the patient’s full medical history. Glaucoma can be treated before it causes eye vision loss, and that is why most treatments give excellent results.

Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease. There is no cure for glaucoma yet. However, there are several ways to manage the condition to prevent further vision loss. Our highly trained and accredited doctors at Vision Center of New York will work with you to evaluate for glaucoma and determine the best treatment plan for your eyes. With over 25 combined years of experience, we take pride in our ability to diagnose and help patients improve their vision and the health of their eyes. Don’t lose your vision to glaucoma, schedule an appointment today.