As many as three million people in the United States live with glaucoma, one of many eye conditions that can cause significant and even permanent vision problems. Fortunately, our team has the training and experience to be able to detect glaucoma, as well as recommend how to manage and treat the condition.
Glaucoma is an eye condition that is characterized by damage to the optic nerve caused by excessive intraocular pressure, or pressure inside the eyes. Our eyes all have drainage channels that enable excess fluid to flow out, keeping the pressure within fairly stable. However, sometimes issues can occur with these drainage channels that prevent them from working properly, causing pressure inside the eyes to rise to an unsuitable level. When this happens, it places pressure on the optic nerve at the back of the eye. The optic nerve is responsible for taking light received by the retina and turning it into signals which are sent up it to the brain, which in turn tells us what we can see. When the pressure is too high inside the eye, it damages the optic nerve, preventing it from working as it should. This leads to vision loss, starting with our peripheral vision and extending until our eyesight is significantly compromised.
There are many different types of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma accounts for around 90% of cases and develops slowly over a period of months and years. Acute, or closed-angle glaucoma, develops much more quickly and so too does the damage that it causes to your vision. Acute glaucoma is actually considered an eye emergency and requires immediate treatment. This is because any vision lost because of glaucoma is permanent and irreversible.
People rarely develop any symptoms of open-angle glaucoma and instead, it is detected at routine eye exams when your eye doctor performs specific assessments. However, acute glaucoma symptoms develop quickly and include:
Severe eye pain
Feelings of pressure inside the eyes/head
Sensitivity to light
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s critical that you make an appointment with your eye doctor immediately.
Although any vision lost as a result of glaucoma can’t be restored, there are treatments that can manage your condition and prevent any further damage to your eyesight. Which treatment you are offered will depend on the type of glaucoma that you have and how seriously your vision has been affected. Possible options include:
There are several medications that lower the amount of pressure inside your eyes. They work by reducing the amount of fluid being produced, or by improving the way it drains. These medications include eyedrops and orally-taken tablets.
Laser therapy is usually recommended for patients where medication hasn’t been successful, or as a first course of action for acute glaucoma, where it’s important to reduce your intraocular pressure as quickly as possible. Laser treatment, also known as iridotomy, uses laser technology to create a tiny opening in the colored part of your eye (the iris) so that excess fluid can leave the eye.
In some instances, surgery may be required to create a second drainage channel in the eye, enabling fluid to be drained much more quickly. This is normally offered when other treatments haven’t proved effective. Many patients who undergo surgery will find that they are much less likely on topical or oral medications to manage the pressure in their eyes.
If you would like to learn more about glaucoma, or if you are concerned about your vision and would like to make an appointment with our experienced and professional eyecare team, please call Santa Barbara Eyecare in Santa Barbara and Goleta, California at (805) 967-9990 or (805) 451-8180 today.