Aker Kasten Eye Center Offers Glaucoma Testing
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve most commonly associated with an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP) within the eye. Because there is no pain associated with it and the damage is gradual, glaucoma is often referred to as the “sneak thief of sight”.
Two of the most common forms of glaucoma are chronic open angle glaucoma and acute narrow angle glaucoma.
Chronic Open Angle Glaucoma
With open angle glaucoma, the structures within the eye appear normal, but the fluid (aqueous humor), for some unknown reason, is not able to drain properly. Aqueous humor is a clear liquid which constantly flows in and out of the eye, nourishing ocular tissue, carrying away waste, and keeping the pressure in the eye at a normal level. The production of this fluid must be balanced by an equal amount of drainage, and an imbalance will cause the pressure in the eye to rise. If too high, this pressure pinches and damages the optic nerve and the blood vessels which nourish the optic nerve. If left untreated, the result is usually a slow loss of peripheral vision and eventual blindness. The good new is, if it is diagnosed early, the disease can be controlled and permanent vision loss can be prevented.
Acute Narrow Angle Glaucoma
Narrow angle glaucoma is characterized by abnormal structures in the front of the eye. These abnormal structures block the fluid from draining, causing an intense and sudden rise in intraocular pressure. Symptoms will often include blurred vision, redness in the eye, extreme pain, nausea and headaches. Acute closed angle glaucoma can result in blindness within days and should be treated as an emergency.
Am I At Risk for Glaucoma?
Glaucoma affects 2% of adults past the age of 40. In the early stages of glaucoma there are no symptoms and a high percentage of individuals with this disease are unaware they have it.
Studies have shown individuals at greater risk for glaucoma may fit one or more of the following criteria:
- Over the age of 40
- Family history of Glaucoma
Since early detection is critical to avoiding permanent loss of vision, individuals who possess any of the non-age-related risk factors should have a regular eye examination every year.
Detection of Glaucoma
In a simple, painless test, our experienced doctors will measure the intraocular eye pressure (IOP) and evaluate the retina and optic nerve. If the pressure is unusually high or if the optic nerve proves abnormal upon examination, a “visual field” test is usually scheduled to determine if any peripheral or side vision has been lost. Glaucoma produces characteristic defects in the visual field.
A new highly effective technology is now available to assist in the detection of glaucoma before symptoms become apparent to the patient. The Ocular Coherence Tomography (OCT) system combines a laser-scanning camera and specialized software that will evaluate your optic nerve. This painless, non-invasive exam takes only moments to perform and will provide your doctor with beneficial information during your eye exam.
Although there is no cure for glaucoma, early detection is crucial to preventing the progress of the disease. It is one reason adults past the age of 40 should visit an eye doctor every year.
Depending on the type of glaucoma, medications in the form of eye drops or pills may be used to lower the eye pressure. Laser treatment or filter surgery may also be used to open the drainage system. With appropriate and timely therapy the potential for further damage to the optic nerve and resulting loss of vision is significantly reduced.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT), a “cold” laser, is sometimes used to open up the drainage system to allow the fluid to flow more freely which, in turn, lowers the pressure in the eye. To learn more about SLT, click here.
ECP (endocyclophotocoagulation), a gentle form of light energy, is also sometimes used in conjunction with cataract surgery to decrease the production of fluid in the eye. To learn more about ECP, click here.