Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries the image from the eyes to the brain. Anything causing damage to the optic nerve will adversely affect vision. A normal eye circulates a clear liquid, called aqueous humor, inside the eye. It is a continuous process, with fluid being constantly produced and drained from the eye. In people with glaucoma, something causes the drainage system to be blocked, resulting in a build-up of fluid pressure within the inner eye. This pressure can damage delicate optic nerve fibers, causing blind spots to develop. If the entire nerve is destroyed, blindness results.
There are two types of glaucoma. The most common form is chronic open-angle glaucoma, and accounts for about 90% of glaucoma in adults. The angle of the drainage system becomes less efficient as part of the aging process, and pressure within the eye gradually increases. This happens so gradually and painlessly that most people are not aware that it is happening until the optic nerve is badly damaged. Because the damage is irreversible, early detection and treatment are very important.
The second type is angle-closure glaucoma. In this form the drainage angle of the eye becomes completely blocked. When eye pressure builds up suddenly, it is called acute angle-closure glaucoma. Symptoms of this include blurred vision, severe eye pain, headache, seeing haloes around lights, and nausea and vomiting. These symptoms should never be ignored and are reason to be seen by an ophthalmologist immediately. Without timely treatment, blindness can result.
Regular eye examinations by an Eye M.D. are important for the detection of glaucoma. Your intraocular pressure will be measured, and the drainage angle of your eyes will be evaluated. Your Eye M.D. will look at your optic nerve for signs of nerve damage. If damage is suspected, a GDX nerve fiber analysis may be done. This is the latest technology available to detect damage to the optic nerve at its very earliest stage. SREC has had this technology available to our patients since 1999, and is the only eye center in Rutherford County to offer it. A visual field test may also be performed to assess visual loss.
Your Eye M.D. will treat your glaucoma according to the type and severity of the disease.
Eye drops are the most common treatment, and work by either slowing the production of aqueous fluids within the eye, or by improving the flow through the drainage angle. Sometimes laser surgery is needed to either modify the drain or improve the flow of fluid to the drain. In some cases operative surgery may be necessary to create a new drainage channel for the aqueous fluid to leave the eye. Dr. Ranz is experienced in all of these treatments, and will know which one is right for your eyes.