Glaucoma is a particularly threatening eye disease for several reasons. First of all, there is no cure for the disease, only treatment to slow or halt its progress.
Any damage that occurs because of glaucoma is permanent. If you do not begin glaucoma treatment soon enough, you could have gaps in your vision for the rest of your life.
But treating glaucoma early can be difficult as glaucoma exhibits few noticeable symptoms. How to know if you have glaucoma?
The answer is to see your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. The key to preventing glaucoma damage is early detection, so make sure to see your eye doctor on a regular basis. Annual eye exams will also protect you from other potential eye problems.
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Glaucoma is typically diagnosed with a test called tonometry. This test measures the pressure inside your eye. Glaucoma causes damage because of pressure inside the eye.
Glaucoma causes a partial blockage inside the eye. This prevents the eye fluid produced from draining fast enough. When this happens, it causes a buildup in pressure.
This pressure eventually wins out against the optic nerve. The optic nerve is a cable of nerves that connects your eye to your brain.
Tonometry uses a sharp puff of air that is then blown into your eyes. Some offices may use a physical instrument that makes contact with your eye.
Either way, the machine detects if your eye pressure is within normal ranges. If it is higher than the acceptable ranges, your doctor will check for other signs of glaucoma.
The puff of air test is not painful, but if your doctor uses a physical tonometer your eye will need to be numbed first.
Other tests include:
- Perimetry, which shows the doctor your complete field of vision.
- Gonioscopy, which checks the angle at which the iris meets the cornea (a common cause of blockage)
- Pachymetry, which measures the thickness of your cornea
- Ophthalmoscopy, which directly shows damage to the optic nerve.
All these tests are vital to diagnosing glaucoma because it is so difficult to detect.
Learn more about glaucoma screening and testing.
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
If you get a diagnosis of glaucoma, then you will need to begin treatment immediately. The first step is usually to take special eye drops. Some patients may need to take oral medication as well.
These eye drops and pills help to reduce your eye pressure. This is by either by relaxing the muscles in the eye to allow better outflow or by reducing the rate the fluid is produced. Once started, this medication must be taken consistently to be effective.
In extreme circumstances, patients may need a surgery called a trabeculectomy. A trabeculectomy provides immediate relief of interior eye pressure.
Even after a trabeculectomy, patients will still need to take eye drops to keep eye pressure down.
Learn more about glaucoma treatment options.
Don’t let glaucoma scare you. Stay ahead of it by scheduling regular appointments. Schedule an appointment at Washington Eye in Chevy Chase, MD today.