Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve of the eye. The optic nerve is the “cable” that takes what our eye sees and sends the signal to our brain. 3 million people are estimated to have glaucoma, BUT only half of them are aware they have the disease. Early in the disease there are no symptoms and for that reason glaucoma is often referred to as “the silent thief of sight”. The damage to the optic nerve is progressive without treatment and the loss of vision is irreversible. For this reason it is important to be screened for glaucoma in hopes of identifying the disease in its earliest stages and initiate treatment to preserve vision.
A glaucoma evaluation includes:
- A complete dilated eye examination
- Intra-ocular pressure measurement
- Optic nerve evaluation
- Visual field evaluations
- Corneal pachymetry
What are the risk factors for glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a multifactorial disease with several risk factors associated:
- Age: Glaucoma is found more often in those over the age of 50.
- Race: African Americans are 3-4 times more likely to develop glaucoma. Hispanics are 1-2 times more likely to develop glaucoma.
- Intraocular pressure (IOP): Increased IOP is a risk factor for developing glaucoma. Understand that IOP can have diurnal fluctuation and may be consistently “normal” at certain times during the day, yet abnormal at other times during the day.
- Family history: Patients with immediate family members who have Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (the most common type) are 4-9 times more likely to develop glaucoma.
- Corneal thickness: Patients with thinner corneas are at a greater risk to develop glaucoma.
- Steroid usage: Topical steroids used chronically have been shown to increase IOP in a certain percentage of the population. Patients who take topical steroids on a chronic basis should have their eye pressure checked throughout the year.
- Eye injuries: Blunt injuries to the eye that result in damage to the iris or drainage angle of the eye can lead to increased IOP. The increased IOP can occur immediately following the injury or sometimes 10-20 years following the incident.
What are the different types of glaucoma?
There are several different types of glaucoma, all of which have progressive optic nerve damage and visual field loss in common. Below is a list of the different types:
- Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
- Normal or Low Pressure/Tension Glaucoma
- Narrow Angle Glaucoma
- Secondary Glaucoma
- Pigmentary Glaucoma
- Pseudo exfoliative Glaucoma
- Neovascular Glaucoma
- Congenital Glaucoma
- Glaucoma Suspect