619 River Drive, Elmwood Park, NJ
201-796-2020

ABOUT GLAUCOMA

What is Glaucoma?

GlaucomaGlaucoma is an eye disease that causes damage to the optic nerve usually by increased pressure inside the eye. There is a constant flow of fluid inside the eye and this fluid needs to maintain a pressure that will safely give the eye structure and support. The “normal” pressure range is typically between 10 and 20 millimeters of mercury. However, there are individuals whose eye pressures measure outside of that range and their eyes can still be healthy. Conversely, there are people whose eye pressures measure within the normal range and yet still have signs of glaucoma. Therefore, ideal eye pressure is specific to each person.

There is a structure located just behind the iris called the ciliary body. The ciliary body produces a fluid known as the aqueous humor, which provides nourishment to the eye. The aqueous humor circulates throughout the eye and leaves it through a drainage channel called the trabecular meshwork. The trabecular meshwork is located where the cornea meets the iris, an area called the angle of the eye.

When a person is affected by glaucoma, the aqueous humor gets “backed up” inside the eye. The build up of fluid causes internal pressure, similar to when a balloon is filled with too much air. One structure that is particularly sensitive to high eye pressures is the optic disc. The optic disc represents the beginning of the optic nerve and it is the point where the optic nerve meets the retina. The optic nerve is the connection between the eye and the brain and it allows light information to travel from the eye to the brain, thus playing a vital role in the visual pathway. If the optic nerve is damaged, this can result in a loss of vision. The side vision tends to be affected first, so it may not be noticed in its early stages. If the optic nerve endures damage by high eye pressures for a considerable amount of time, a person can very well end up with total blindness.

There are different reasons as to how the aqueous humor gets backed up, and that is why glaucoma is actually subdivided into several types. There are two broad categories of glaucoma, open angle or narrow angle, depending on the patients’ anatomy. There are many more specific subtypes of glaucoma under these two categories.

Each type of glaucoma has its distinct method by which it inflicts damage to the optic nerve. If you are diagnosed, our glaucoma specialists will take the time to educate you on the type of glaucoma affecting your eyes and the best route for treatment.
 

What are Common Symptoms of Glaucoma?

For most forms of glaucoma, there are no symptoms. This is why glaucoma is sometimes referred to as the silent thief of sight. In its beginning stages, there is typically no pain and vision is normal. Then as it begins to develop, there is a gradual loss in peripheral vision. In the advanced stages of glaucoma, constant tunnel vision can result. There are other forms of glaucoma that are associated with symptoms that are more recognizable and have a rapid onset. A patient diagnosed with acute angle-closure glaucoma, for example, may experience symptoms such as:

  • Eye pain
  • Headache or an ache around the eye
  • Sudden blurred vision
  • Severe light sensitivity
  • Nausea and vomiting
     

How will I know if I have Glaucoma?

Since symptoms of glaucoma can be “silent” and vary with each form, the only way to know if you have glaucoma is by being examined by an eye doctor. As mentioned before, glaucoma can present itself in individuals who have eye pressures within the “normal” range. Therefore, measuring eye pressure alone is insufficient to make a definite diagnosis. At Phillips Eye Center, our glaucoma specialists use a variety of diagnostic tests and equipment to aid in determining whether or not you have glaucoma. These tests may need to be repeated over time to make sure that things are stable.


Who is at Risk for Glaucoma?

Anyone can develop glaucoma; however, there are some people who are at greater risk than others. Some risk factors include:

  • High eye pressures
  • Positive family history
  • Older age
  • Black ancestry
  • Extreme myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness)
  • Past eye trauma
  • A history of eye inflammation

The only way to determine if you are at risk for glaucoma is by having regular eye exams. If your eye doctor is suspicious of possible glaucoma, he or she may refer you to our office for further evaluation. Our glaucoma specialists will then take time to learn your ocular history and perform the different diagnostic tests that will give better insight on your glaucoma prognosis.
 

Can Glaucoma be Cured?

At this time, there is no known cure for glaucoma. It can only be treated with the goal of stabilizing the disease so that optic nerve damage is prevented or slowed down. Unfortunately, any loss in vision resulting from glaucoma is irreversible.
 

Does Being Diagnosed with Glaucoma Mean I will Definitely Lose my Vision?

No, it does not. Early diagnosis of glaucoma is key to preserving your vision; so again, having regular dilated eye exams is your first form of defense. Once damage to the optic nerve occurs and inflicts visual loss, it cannot be reversed. Thus, taking your medications and keeping compliant with your follow up examinations are crucial. Preventing any vision loss requires strong teamwork between you and your glaucoma specialist. Our specialists can prescribe treatment, but it’s important for you to follow your treatment plan closely.
 

Learn more about Glaucoma Treatment

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