Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steal sight without warning. In the early stages of the disease, there may be no symptoms. Experts estimate that half of the people affected by glaucoma may not know they have it.
There is no cure for glaucoma – yet. However, medication or surgery can slow or prevent further vision loss. The appropriate treatment depends upon the type of glaucoma among other factors. Early detection is vital to stopping the progress of the disease.
It was once thought that high pressure within the eye, also known as intraocular pressure or IOP, is the main cause of this optic nerve damage. Although IOP is clearly a risk factor, we now know that other factors must also be involved because even people with 'normal' levels of pressure can experience vision loss from glaucoma.
Adult glaucoma falls into two categories – open angle glaucoma and closed angle glaucoma.
Open Angle Glaucoma (OAG)
This is the most common form of glaucoma, affecting about three million Americans. It happens when the eye's drainage canals become clogged over time. The inner eye pressure (also called intraocular pressure or IOP) rises because the correct amount of fluid can't drain out of the eye. With open angle glaucoma, the entrances to the drainage canals are clear and should be working correctly. The clogging problem occurs further inside the drainage canals, similar to a clogged pipe below the drain in a sink. In open-angle glaucoma, the optic nerve is slowly damaged, usually causing gradual loss of vision. Both eyes can be affected at the same time, although one may be affected more than the other. Sometimes much of your eyesight can be affected before you notice a change.
Most people have no symptoms and no early warning signs. If open angle glaucoma is not diagnosed and treated, it can cause a gradual loss of vision. This type of glaucoma develops slowly and sometimes without noticeable sight loss for many years. It usually responds well to medication, especially if caught early and treated.
Symptoms of Open Angle Glaucoma
If you have open-angle glaucoma, the only symptom you are likely to notice is vision loss. You may not notice the vision loss until it is severe, because your less affected eye at first makes up for the loss. Side (peripheral) vision is usually lost before central vision.
Closed Angle Glaucoma (CAG)
Closed-angle glaucoma is less common, accounting for about 10% of all glaucoma cases in the United States. In closed-angle glaucoma, the colored part of the eye (iris) and the lens block the movement of fluid between the chambers of the eye, causing pressure to build up and the iris to press on the drainage system (trabecular meshwork) of the eye. It may cause sudden blurred vision with pain and redness, usually in one eye first; symptoms may also include nausea and vomiting.
Typically medications are intended to reduce elevated intraocular pressure and prevent damage to the optic nerve.
Symptoms of Closed Angle Glaucoma
Symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma can be very mild, often going unnoticed. You may have short episodes of symptoms, often occurring in the evening and ending by morning. However, symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma can be severe, including sudden, severe blurring of vision; severe pain in or around the eye; colored halos around lights; eye redness; or nausea and vomiting.
As a leading Los Angeles glaucoma authority, Dr. Arthur Benjamin is able to provide top quality care and treatments to patients suffering from glaucoma. With his help, Los Angeles glaucoma patients are once again able to enjoy the comforts of life without this debilitating condition. Dr. Benjamin is also recognized as a top provider of laser cataract surgery, LASIK surgery and dry eyes treatments in Los Angeles.
In treating glaucoma, the experts at the Benjamin Eye Institute offer several options. Depending on your unique case, your ophthalmologist will recommend which treatment he or she believes is the best option. Treatment options for glaucoma include:
- SLT, or Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty. This surgery uses a laser to lower intraocular pressure caused by glaucoma. Ophthalmologists may opt for SLT when eye drop medications are not effective, or SLT may be used as initial treatment if advised by a professional.
- ECP, or Endoscopic CycloPhotocoagulation. Many patients with cataracts have glaucoma as well. ECP is performed during or after cataract surgery, drastically reducing or even eliminating the need for patients to continue using glaucoma medication.
- iStent. This device can effectively lower intraocular pressure, lowering risk for progressing glaucoma. As such, it will in turn reduce reliance upon glaucoma medication.