Glaucoma is a very common eye condition in the United States and the entire world. This condition is a slowly progressive condition that can cause blindness if not treated appropriately.
Basics of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a condition in which the optic nerve, which connects the eyes to the brain, becomes damaged.
In most cases of glaucoma, this occurs due to an increase in the pressure inside the eye.
When the eye pressure increases and stays increased, it can put force on the optic nerve and cause it to become damaged and no longer function correctly.
How Eye Pressure Impacts the Optic Nerve
The pressure inside the eye, known as the intraocular pressure (IOP), is one of the biggest indicators of glaucoma.
When a doctor measures the pressure inside the eye, it is expected to be within a range. Typically, this range is between 10 and 21 millimeters of Mercury, which includes the majority of the population.
If an individual has an eye pressure that is consistently higher than 21, the eye pressure may begin to impact the optic nerve and cause glaucoma.
The optic nerve and the retina are in the back of the eye and are responsible for sending visual information from the eyes to the brain.
When the pressure in the eye is higher, it may cause extra force on the optic nerve and retina which can compress parts of the nerve and prevent it from sending information to the brain.
Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma
In most cases, glaucoma will be diagnosed based only on signs that are visible in an eye examination and scans of the back of the eye.
If symptoms arise, it will likely be a loss of peripheral vision or a specific area of vision that is dimmer or black to the side of the central vision.
When symptoms occur, it means that there has been significant, longstanding damage to the optic nerve and retina.
More commonly, signs such as a high eye pressure, abnormal looking optic nerve, or damage to the retina can be detected without causing any symptoms.
To treat glaucoma, there are eye drops and surgical procedures which lower the eye pressure.
Lowering the eye pressure reduces the risk of progression or more damage to the optic nerve or retina.
For early glaucoma, the first line of treatment is typically a single eye drop each day. If the eye pressure is still higher than desired or the normal range, another eye drop can be added, or a surgical consult can be made.
Prognosis of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a chronic condition which does not have a cure – medication or surgery. However, the prognosis is excellent with appropriate treatment and management of the condition.
It is common for patients with glaucoma to be monitored multiple times a year in order to ensure that the eye pressure is managed to an appropriate level.
Any vision that is lost with glaucoma is permanently lost, so the emphasis is put on preventing the progression of the disease to that stage.