If you think you may have a glaucoma-related vision problem, make an appointment as soon as possible with Atlanta Vision Cataract & Laser Center. Our location in Atlanta, GA serves patients from Atlanta, East Point, Hapeville, and College Park areas.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma isn’t just one eye disease, but an entire group of eye disorders that leads to optic nerve damage. It can potentially result in vision loss. Sometimes, but not in every case, the damage is caused by unusually high pressure within the eye itself. Glaucoma is one of the main causes of blindness in the U.S. alone. It can damage your eyesight so slowly that you may not even notice any vision loss until the disease has progressed to a more advanced stage. The most common kind form of glaucoma is: primary open-angle-glaucoma. This form has no obvious symptoms or signs except the gradual loss of vision. For best results, early detection and treatment is the key to minimizing the disease as much as possible or to prevent further optic nerve damage and decrease glaucoma-related loss of vision. It’s crucial to get an eye exam on a regular basis.
The most common kinds of glaucoma-related vision loss are primary open-angle-glaucoma and angle-closure-glaucoma. Angle-closure glaucoma manifests entirely different symptoms in people than primary open-angle glaucoma.
Signs of acute angle-closure-glaucoma include the following:
- Pain in the eye(s)
- Nausea and vomiting along with severe eye pain
- Blurry vision
- Red eyes
- Abrupt onset of visual problems, typically in low light
- Seeing halos around lights
Signs of open-angle-glaucoma include the following:
- Tunnel vision in the later stages
- Steady loss of peripheral vision, typically in both eyes
How to Proceed
If you are experiencing some or many of these particular symptoms simultaneously, especially if you have eye pressure; seek medical attention immediately at Atlanta Vision Cataract & Laser Center or at an emergency room since you may need to be treated for glaucoma-related issues.
Both angle-closure and open-angle-glaucoma can either be primary or secondary disorders. They’re referred to as primary if the cause isn’t known, and referred to as secondary if the disorder can be traced back to an identifiable cause like an eye injury, tumor, diabetes, advanced cataracts, certain eye disorders, inflammation, or medications.
What are Risk Factors for Glaucoma?
Because certain forms of glaucoma can destroy your vision prior to any noticeable symptoms or signs are obvious, be mindful of the following aspects:
- Ethnic background. Certain ethnic groups are more predisposed than other ethnic groups to particular forms of glaucoma.
- Long-term corticosteroid use
- Increased internal eye pressure
- Certain medical conditions
- Family history
- Other eye disorders
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) for Glaucoma
Open-angle glaucoma threatens the sight of more than 50 million people worldwide, with the number of annual cases significantly on the rise. This means glaucoma patients are an increasingly important part of any practice. Lumenis offers an array of ophthalmic laser systems that continue to provide the ophthalmologist with essential surgical tools to help lower intraocular pressure and control this progressive, degenerative disease.
A minimally invasive technological breakthrough, the Selecta II glaucoma laser system is changing the future vision of glaucoma patients with Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT). SLT provides the benefits of Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty (ALT) without the coagulative damage that leads to scarring. From photocoagulators to photodisruptors, Lumenis’ family of advanced laser technologies are an invaluable mainstay in the treatment of glaucoma.
Minimally-Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS)
MIGS offers a broader range of treatments for those living with glaucoma. Traditional glaucoma surgery is reserved for moderate to severe cases because there are risks with the procedure. MIGS provides surgical options for people with mild to moderate glaucoma who would otherwise have to wait until the eye disease gets significantly worse.
Minimally-invasive glaucoma surgery can be combined with SLT to eliminate the need for prescription eye drops and other medications afterward and is often done with cataract surgery to restore clear vision all at once.
These procedures target high intraocular pressure in different ways and involve the spongy tissue (trabecular meshwork) located in the drainage angle between your iris and cornea. Some versions of MIGS remove a section of this tissue where the fluid outflow of your eye meets the most resistance to open the drainage angle and lower eye pressure. Other forms of MIGS dilate the Schlemm’s canals — circular vessels in the eyes that drain the fluid—and the structures downstream to improve drainage. Another MIGS technique places a shunt or small mesh implant to enhance drainage and maintain an open pathway.
Some research suggests that people with glaucoma who have MIGS or laser surgery while the condition is considered mild or moderate have better outcomes than those who wait for glaucoma to progress.
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
People with glaucoma don’t experience symptoms or discomfort until the disease has advanced and caused peripheral vision loss. Annual eye exams are your best defense against glaucoma because these appointments are the only way to catch the condition early.
During your eye exam, one of our eye doctors will perform a series of tests to evaluate your ocular health and screen for glaucoma, including:
- Tonometry test: Our eye doctor examines intraocular pressure by numbing the eye with drops and using a tonometer tool to determine eye pressure through gentle force with a warm puff of air or a small device.
- Ophthalmoscopy (dilated eye exam): Eye drops dilate your pupil so our eye doctor can assess the shape and color of your optic nerve.
- Perimetry test (visual field test): Your entire field of vision is evaluated to identify vision loss, which often occurs in your side vision first in glaucoma.
- Gonioscopy test: The drainage angle between your iris and cornea where fluid flows out from the inner eye is examined for issues.
- Pachymetry test: The integrity and thickness of your cornea are assessed.
Testing for glaucoma is quick and painless and the only way to avoid future vision loss from high eye pressure. People with a family history of glaucoma should be vigilant about regular eye exams.
Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?
There is no way to prevent glaucoma, but regular screenings during eye exams can prevent vision loss. You may be able to mitigate your risk of losing your eyesight to glaucoma by living a healthy lifestyle, proper management of health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension and taking your eye drops and other medications as prescribed.
You can’t control hereditary risk factors but avoiding smoking, excessive drinking and caffeine may help lower eye pressure. Stress and weight gain may contribute to intraocular pressure, so glaucoma prevention in terms of vision loss could include keeping your weight down and using stress-relieving measures such as meditation and relaxing exercises.
What Causes Glaucoma?
The actual cause of glaucoma is still unknown, but a blocked or damaged drainage angle is the main culprit behind fluid buildup in the eye. The optic nerve contains fragile fibers and blood vessels that are easily damaged by increased eye pressure. Family history, certain medical conditions, eye injury, infection or a tumor in the eye area may increase your risk of glaucoma. Thinning corneas may also raise your chances of developing glaucoma, so patients with keratoconus may need screenings more often.
Does Glaucoma Cause Blindness?
Eventually, untreated glaucoma will cause blindness. If the disease is caught early, vision loss and optic nerve damage can be controlled. Peripheral (side) vision is damaged first, then your central vision. An estimated 15 percent of glaucoma patients will lose their up-close sight and reading ability in one eye, and those with angle-closure glaucoma are two to three times more likely to go blind.
How Do I Know If I Have Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is sometimes called a “silent thief” because most people don’t know they have the disease until they’ve lost some of their side vision. However, acute angle-closure glaucoma may be accompanied by blurry vision, light halos or rings, eyestrain, nausea, vomiting, pain and redness. Acute closed-angle attacks are considered a medical emergency.
Does Diabetes Lead to Glaucoma?
People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing various eye diseases, including glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and diabetic macular edema. Neovascular glaucoma is a common type in patients with diabetes and can be challenging to treat. This type of glaucoma occurs when new blood vessels grow on the iris.
Are There Hereditary Risk Factors for Glaucoma?
Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma and is hereditary. You are up to nine times more likely to have this form of glaucoma if your parent, grandparent or another immediate family member has the condition.
Does Stress Worsen Glaucoma?
Some studies suggest that stress can provoke high eye pressure in patients with open-angle glaucoma and could increase the likelihood of an acute angle-closure attack in people with narrow drainage angles.
Schedule Your Glaucoma Screening Today
If you are concerned about glaucoma or if it’s time for your annual eye exam, contact our eye doctors at Atlanta Vision Laser and Cataract Center. Call or schedule an appointment online today.