Glaucoma is something many of us have heard of, but aren’t really sure what it is. We may have a family member with it and are even told to let our eye doctors know if this is the case. But what exactly is it? Glaucoma is damage to our optic nerve, usually as a result of increased pressure in the eye, but not always. This damage leads to loss of our peripheral vision. It happens most often slowly over years, but we can have sudden high-pressure increases as well.
Most of us, even with glaucoma, will say that our peripheral vision is great and we have no issues. However, if you are able to tell that some of your peripheral vision is missing, you already have advanced glaucoma. We, as eye care practitioners, work very hard to manage glaucoma so that you may never even notice there is a change.
This being said, it is important to have your eyes checked regularly so that it can be monitored. We have testing that allows us to track your glaucoma. This includes:
- Visual field test. This will monitor your peripheral vision. The patient will stare into the instrument (one eye at a time) and click a button when they see lights flash peripherally.
- Optic nerve OCT. Since damage to your optic nerve can happen, we will monitor it with pictures of it that tell us how thick or thin the nerve tissue is.
- Intraocular pressure. Just like a tire has pressure, so does your eyeball. This is usually checked every visit.
- Corneal thickness. Believe it or not, the thickness of your cornea affects how we measure the pressure in your eye. This is usually done once.
- Gonio. This is a mirror we place on your eye (like a contact) and it allows us to see how the fluid is circulating through your eye. If the drainage system is too small, you may have issues with the fluid exiting your eye.
We check everyone that comes in for their regular exam to see if they have any indication of glaucoma. If there are any concerns, we will discuss them with you and usually do a couple of the tests as a baseline to compare in the future.
So what happens if you’re told you have glaucoma? Well, there are many different treatment options. Usually, we start with an eye drop that helps lower the pressure. Other options include laser, IStent, and others. You will also need to be watched more closely than someone without glaucoma. If you are concerned about glaucoma, please schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to learn more.