Unfortunately, the common types of glaucoma have no early symptoms. Once loss of vision is noticed, the damage is usually severe and irreversible. Despite what most people think, people cannot “feel” an elevated pressure inside their eyes unless the pressure is very high or has risen suddenly.
Symptoms of intermittent pain, blurring of vision or seeing colored haloes (“rainbow rings”) around lights may indicate a glaucoma attack and should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist as soon as possible. Any sudden, severe eye pain or loss of vision should prompt an immediate visit to an ophthalmologist.
Prevention of Vision Loss
All adults over the age of 30 years should have eye examinations every 2-3 years to make sure they do not have early glaucoma.
Regular eye examinations by a qualified eye care provider, like the doctors at EyeHealth Northwest, are the only way to catch glaucoma in its early stages. Proactive prevention and early detection are critical to preserve your vision. Visit: Glaucoma Exam to learn more, or contact us for an appointment.
Physicians and surgeons at EyeHealth Northwest recommend the following guidelines for detection, However, if you are at higher risk, more frequent exams are recommended.
- Age 40 and under: Once every 2 to 3 years
- Age 40 – 65: Once every two years
- Age 65 and over: Annually.
Unfortunately, vision lost to glaucoma damage CANNOT be restored. General ophthalmologists and glaucoma specialists endeavor to preserve what vision a glaucoma patient still has. Medicine and surgery for glaucoma can prevent further loss of vision, but cannot improve vision. Persons with glaucoma who fail to seek or follow the advice of an ophthalmologist may slowly lose their remaining vision until they become blind.
Even with current technology, it is not possible to perform an eye transplant or optic nerve transplant. In addition, the nerve fibers damaged by glaucoma cannot be replaced or re-grown. Retinal implants are being evaluated for patients with retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, but are unlikely to help glaucoma patients.
Treatment for Glaucoma
The common goal of all glaucoma treatment is to lower the eye pressure to a safe range. This can be achieved with eye drops, medications, laser treatment or surgery.
Eye Drops and Medications
Eye drops usually work well for most cases, but they only work if taken regularly. If the medications are forgotten, used incorrectly or taken less often than prescribed, progressive glaucoma damage may occur.
Taking these medications more often than prescribed is also a bad idea – it may increase side effects and even cause acute illness.
Similar to diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis, glaucoma is a chronic disease that cannot be “cured”, so treatment is usually life-long. Multiple medications are often required and these medications may need to be adjusted over the course of several visits until the most effective combination is found. Even after the pressure is controlled, clinic visits are necessary several times a year to make sure that the pressure remains controlled.
Glaucoma that cannot be controlled with medications may respond to Glaucoma laser therapy. These procedures are designed to:
- Create an artificial drainage pathway for the aqueous fluid to leave the eye (“an escape valve”) or
- Decrease the amount of aqueous produced inside the eye (“turning off the tap”)
Unlike adults, children with glaucoma are usually treated surgically.