Thursday, December 1, 2011

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve, the part of the eye that carries the images that we see to the brain. This damage is often caused by increased pressure to the eye, otherwise known as intraocular pressure (IOP). Pressure in the eye increases when aqueous humor, the clear liquid inside the eye, becomes blocked and excess fluid cannot flow out of the eye. This fluid pushes against the optic nerve, causing damage.

There are four major types of glaucoma, as the disease can manifest itself in different ways. Symptoms include blurred vision, severe eye pain, headache, halos around lights, and nausea and vomiting. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the United States, but is easily detectable through a routine eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. There are risk factors, such as age, ancestry, and other systemic health problems that put individuals at a higher risk for the disease.

Damage caused by glaucoma is not reversible; however, there are steps that can be taken to prevent further damage to the optic nerve. Eye drops to lower IOP are common for those who suffer from glaucoma. There are also several different surgeries that can be done to create new drainage within the eye and help control eye pressure. “Medications to treat glaucoma must be taken exactly as prescribed, and patients must make sure they continue to be seen for follow up exams,” says Dr. Samuel Solish, Glaucoma and Cataract Surgeon at Eyecare Medical Group.

If you have a family history of glaucoma, or are at an increased risk for the disease due to other factors, now is the time to call for a glaucoma screening.