What are the first signs of glaucoma?
Glaucoma affects millions of people in the United States, but many of these people are blissfully unaware that they are affected – at least at first. That’s because glaucoma symptoms often develop extremely slowly and it’s not until the condition has become advanced that sufferers notice and seek professional support. However, an increasing number of cases are being detected at routine eye exams too, making attending these appointments more important than ever.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name used to describe a group of different eye conditions that are characterized by excessive pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure). When this pressure builds, it causes damage to the optic nerve, which is the main nerve running between the eye and brain and that is responsible for transmitting images.
When glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve, it is permanent. This means that any vision that is lost a result of glaucoma cannot be restored. For this reason, glaucoma screening forms a regular part of routine eye exams.
Early symptoms of glaucoma
Different types of glaucoma can cause different symptoms.
Open-angle glaucoma is usually caused by problems with the eye’s drainage cannels, which can become clogged over time, causing the pressure to build up.
In open-angle glaucoma, often the only symptom that is detected is a slight loss of peripheral vision. This is the edges of your vision – what you might notice out of the corner of your eye. Most people who have open-angle glaucoma don’t notice any changes in the vision for a long time. This is because we often don’t pay much attention to our peripheral vision, and while this may be affected, our visual acuity (the sharpness of our vision) remains the same.
Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when the pressure in the eye increases rapidly without warning. This most often happens following an injury or trauma, and the iris bulges forward to narrow or completely block the drainage channel, preventing fluid from leaving.
Closed-angle (sometimes called acute) glaucoma develops rapidly and the onset of symptoms can be sudden. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate support from your eye doctor or emergency eye clinic:
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Vision loss: this can be partial or full, or your vision may start coming and going
- Redness of the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Seeing halos around lights, including rainbow-colored circles
- Sensitivity to light
- Your cornea may look cloudy
- You experience severe eye and/or head pain
- Nausea and/or vomiting, when it is accompanied by eye pain
- Tunnel vision
Can glaucoma be treated?
Unfortunately, any vision that is lost due to glaucoma is permanent. However, there are treatments that can stop your vision from getting any worse. Exactly what treatment you will be offered will depend on the type of glaucoma that you have. We’ve listed a few examples below.
Most cases of glaucoma will be treated with eyedrops that work by reducing the pressure in your eye so that there is no further damage to the optic nerve. These eyedrops are only available on prescription and should be taken exactly as directed. You may need to try several different varieties to find the right one for you.
If eyedrops don’t improve your symptoms, or if you have acute angle glaucoma that requires your intraocular pressure to be lowered immediately, you may be recommended to have laser treatment. This is where laser technology is used to stop fluid building up inside your eye and causing damage to your optic nerve. In most cases, patients will be given a laser trabeculoplasty which is where the laser is used to open up the drainage channels within the eye. Other laser techniques include destroying some of the eye tissue that produces the liquid that causes pressure to build and opening up a hole in your iris to allow fluid to drain more easily.
For more information about the first signs of glaucoma, visit Advanced Vision Institute at our office in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can call us at 702-819-9800 to schedule an appointment today.