Glaucoma

Hermitage & Greenville, PA Glaucoma Testing and Treatment

The Valley Eye Center is committed to the early detection and treatment of glaucoma. Glaucoma is a condition that damages the delicate nerve fibers of the eye’s optic nerve. Glaucoma is typically the result of increased pressure inside the eye, however, it can also develop when there is “normal” eye pressure. Therefore the exact cause of glaucoma isn’t clearly understood.

Glaucoma is particularly troubling since it often has no early symptoms. Early on, this increased intraocular pressure (IOP) may not present even the slightest pain, discomfort, or noticeable loss of vision. Blind spots in the field of vision don’t develop until a significant number of nerve fibers are damaged.

This means anyone that doesn’t have their eyes examined regularly runs the risk of having undiagnosed glaucoma. Undiagnosed glaucoma is untreated glaucoma. If glaucoma isn’t treated, the condition can lead to continual vision loss and even permanent blindness within just a few years.

This is why glaucoma, especially among the elderly, is the leading cause of blindness both stateside and throughout the word.

The doctors at Valley Eye Center provide glaucoma treatment in Greenville and Hermitage, PA. Glaucoma treatments are designed to either reduce or control IOP and prevent permanent damage to the optic nerve.

Are There Different Types of Glaucoma?

While there are many types of glaucoma, most can be tagged as either open-angle glaucomas or angle-closure glaucomas. Open-angle glaucomas are much more prevalent here in the United States while angle-closure glaucoma is much more common among those of Asian descent.

Here are the most common open-angle glaucomas.

Primary Chronic Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG)Primary Chronic Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma and the likelihood of developing increases greatly with age. This is because the drainage mechanism, despite being open, can become clogged as a result of aging. When the aqueous fluid from the eye cannot be properly drained, a painless and asymptomatic build-up of pressure in the eye begins. Since this begins peripherally, most people aren’t aware of the problem until it starts to impact their central vision.

Normal or Low Tension Glaucoma – This type of chronic open-angle glaucoma is recognized more today than years past. Believed to be the result of decreased blood flow to the optic nerve, this condition is marked by gradual damage to the optic nerve and a loss in side or peripheral vision despite normal to below-normal intraocular pressure. Diagnosis of this normal or low tension glaucoma usually requires multiple eye examinations to observe nerve damage and peripheral vision changes.

Congenital or Infantile Glaucoma – This inherited open-angle glaucoma is relatively rare. The eye of a young child will have increased pressure resulting in an enlarged eye. This is because the drainage area wasn’t properly developed before birth. Early diagnosis, immediate treatment, and possibly surgery are necessary to preserve the child’s site in cases of primary congenital or infantile glaucoma.

Secondary Open-Angle Glaucoma – This variant of open-angle glaucoma is most commonly the result of an eye injury. This can sometimes be tied to an eye injury that happened many years ago. Other reasons for secondary glaucomas are eye conditions such as iritis (inflammation of the iris), cataracts, diabetes, or individuals susceptible to steroids. Secondary glaucomas are also linked to retinal detachment or blockage.

Pigmentary Glaucoma – This not yet understood secondary glaucoma primarily affects younger men. Pigment granules detach from the iris and negatively impact the eye’s drainage system resulting in elevated intraocular pressure and optic nerve damage.

Exfoliative or Pseudoexfoliative Glaucoma – This type of glaucoma is characterized by flaky material deposits on the anterior capsule – the front surface of the lens – and the angle of the eye where drainage is blocked and eye pressure increases. Exfoliative glaucoma can occur with either open or closed angles and is prevalent in the elderly and those of Scandinavian descent.

What Are the Common Glaucoma Symptoms?

The most worrisome part of acute angle-closure glaucoma is many people are asymptomatic and problem-free in early stages. Permanent damage is likely to have already occurred once symptoms arise. The most common symptoms of glaucoma are:

  • Rapid Onset of Severe Eye Pain, Headache, or Nausea and Vomiting
  • Noticeable Reddening of the Eye or Encrusted and Swollen Eyelids
  • Gradual Visual Field Loss (loss of side or peripheral vision)
  • Unusual Difficulty Adjusting to Dark Rooms
  • Squinting and Unusual Sensitivity to Light or Glare
  • Seeing Spots
  • Double Vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Halos
  • Seeing Wavy or Distorted Lines
  • Excess Tearing (watery eyes)

What Are Glaucoma Risk Factors?

While the cause of glaucoma is debated, several risk factors have been identified:

Elevated Intraocular Pressure – Although everyone with elevated internal eye pressure won’t develop glaucoma, higher-than-normal pressure puts you at an increased risk.

Ethnic Background – Not only do African-Americans over the age of 40 have a much higher risk of developing glaucoma than whites, they’re also more likely to become permanently blind from the condition. Those of Asian descent may be predisposed to angle-closure glaucoma due to smaller eyes narrowing drainage angles and increasing intraocular pressure. Mexican-American’s over the age of 60 are also at a higher risk of glaucoma.

Age – Anyone over the age of 60 has a much higher risk of glaucoma. The age-related risk for glaucoma actually begins to increase at age 40.

Family History – There may be a genetic link that makes anyone with a family history of the condition more susceptible to developing it.

Overall Health – Certain medical conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and hypothyroidism may increase the risk of developing glaucoma.

Other Eye Conditions – Since a severe eye injury can increase eye pressure, anything from a detached retina, an eye surgery, dislocated lens, an inflammatory condition, and even nearsightedness and farsightedness can increase your risk for glaucoma.

Long-Term Use of Corticosteroids – Any long-term use of corticosteroid medications, particularly eye drops, can increase the risk of secondary glaucoma.

How is Glaucoma Diagnosed or Detected?

Glaucoma can only be diagnosed or detected with a thorough eye exam. The eye doctors at Valley Eye Center can detect glaucoma risks prior to nerve damage occurring by noting things like a narrow drainage angle during routine eye examinations.

If glaucoma is suspected or already diagnosed, eye nerve damage and visual field loss are continually observed and assessed through a series of painless tests each year. These tests may include tonometry to measure eye pressure, gonioscopy to inspect the eye’s drainage angle, ophthalmoscopy to evaluate the optic nerve, and perimetry to test the side or peripheral vision of each eye.

How is Glaucoma Treated?

Prescription eye drops, laser or microsurgery are the primary glaucoma treatments.

Eyedrops for glaucoma either reduce fluid formation in the front of the eye or increase outflow. This is typically the first round of glaucoma treatment.

Laser surgery for glaucoma is used to either increase fluid outflow in open-angle glaucoma or rid a blockage in angle-closure glaucoma.

Microsurgery for glaucoma creates a new channel to drain fluid and reduce intraocular pressure.

When to See a Doctor

Since early-stage glaucoma comes with virtually no warning signs, regular eye exams are critical to detect glaucoma early enough to successfully treat and halt its progression. Nerve damage and visual loss from glaucoma is irreversible. It’s a lifelong condition that must be controlled to keep the condition from worsening.

The ophthalmologists at Valley Eye Center recommend that anyone over the age 40 undergoes a comprehensive eye exam every 2 to 4 years. African-Americans, or anyone with a family history of glaucoma, should start this routine at age 30.

Anyone with glaucoma risk factors, or older than 60 years-old, should be screened annually or every other year.

The Hermitage and Greenville ophthalmologists at Valley Eye Center are here to help anyone in the Mercer County area concerned about glaucoma. Contact us today to schedule a comprehensive eye exam and consultation. With locations in both Hermitage and Greenville, PA, we are easily accessible and here for you.

Call us at (724) 347-5665 to schedule an appointment to detect/test for or discuss glaucoma treatment in Hermitage or Greenville, PA. You can also email us at info@valleyeyecenter.com.