Glaucoma is a term used to represent a variety of eye diseases and conditions commonly thought to be related to "increased" pressure within the eye. In actuality, Glaucoma in its purest sense is a disease of the optic nerve (the "cable" at the back of the eye which carries the visual messages to the brain) characterized by progressive loss of the individual nerve fibers that make up the nerve. When sufficient fibers have been lost or damaged, vision may be affected, first by loss of side vision and then later the loss of fine vision in the center. It is estimated that approximately two million Americans have primary open angle Glaucoma (the most common type), and half of them are unaware that they have the disease. Glaucoma is the second most common cause of legal blindness in the United States and the leading cause of legal blindness in African-Americans.
There are many risk factors for the development of Glaucoma, including high eye pressure, age, family history, race and some diseases of blood circulation such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Most people do not experience any symptoms, even if the pressure in the eye is very high. As the disease advances, people may experience problems with side vision in one or both eyes or, when very advanced, blurring of vision.
The only way to detect Glaucoma is through a comprehensive eye examination with particular attention to the appearance of the optic nerve. To help expedite the exam process, Eye Care of San Diego / California Laser Vision Inc. has recently acquired new equipment which lets us take a picture of the optic nerve to detect any signs of damage caused by Glaucoma. This new Nerve Fiber Analyzer is one of only a few in Southern California and is a substantial improvement to the current testing process.
Treatment for Glaucoma consists of eye medication to lower the pressure in the eye, laser treatment designed to make the "drain" of the eye function more efficiently, or surgery to create a new "drain" in order to lower pressure. Many patients will not have further loss of vision if the pressure is lowered sufficiently.
If you have any of the risk factors associated with Glaucoma, it is important that you have your eyes examined every one to two years.