Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that cause progressive damage to the optic nerve, which is the structure that connects the eye to the brain. It usually occurs when the pressure in the eye itself is high. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in patients older than 60 years old in the United States.
There are several types of glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma is the most common form and occurs when the fluid in the eye does not flow properly and causes an increase in pressure. Angle-closure glaucoma, on the other hand, is caused by a physical blockage in the angle of the eye that prevents the proper drainage of fluid. Secondary glaucoma can be caused by other medical conditions or medications.
There are usually no symptoms for glaucoma until late in the disease process. Patients experience peripheral or side vision loss slowly over time. It is not until the vision loss has approached the central vision that patients have any noticeable symptoms, and by that time, it is often too late to recover the lost vision. This is what makes screening for glaucoma and proactive treatment so important. Vision loss caused by glaucoma is irreversible, so the goal of treatment is not to regain lost vision, but to prevent further vision loss.
Treatment options for glaucoma vary depending on the type of glaucoma and the severity of the condition. Medications such as eye drops or oral medications can be used to lower the pressure in the eye. Laser surgery, minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) or traditional glaucoma surgery may be necessary in some cases to improve the flow of fluid in the eye and lower the pressure. Regular eye exams are crucial for people at risk of glaucoma to detect the condition early and prevent vision loss. The surgeons at Washington Eye Institute can discuss which treatment options are best for you.