Glaucoma is a condition caused by an increase in intraocular pressure, which ultimately damages the optic nerve. When left untreated, this eye disease will cause blind spots in your visual field and eventually lead to a complete loss of vision. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States, with more than 200,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
Glaucoma is an age-related vision disorder, occurring most often in people over the age of 40. This makes yearly visits for vision exams incredibly important as you age. Glaucoma is often asymptomatic to start and vision loss may be slow to progress. Once vision is lost, however, it cannot be restored. Glaucoma can be controlled, but it is not curable.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
For many types of glaucoma, there is neither pain nor detectable symptoms until you start losing your vision. For this reason, your condition may go undetected until you've already sustained irreversible damage to your optic nerve.
Depending on the type of glaucoma you are experiencing, symptoms of the disease may include:
- The development of blind spots in your peripheral vision
- Decreased or blurred vision
- Seeing halos and rainbows
- Redness in the eye
Some types of glaucoma may also come with severe pain or pressure in the eye, headache, nausea, and vomiting.
Early detection and treatment of this eye disease can help you slow the progression of glaucoma and prevent further vision loss. If it has been longer than a year since your last eye exam, please call 970-669-1107 today to schedule an appointment at our Loveland ophthalmology practice. We welcome patients from all surrounding communities including Windsor, Severance, Berthoud, Fort Collins, and Wellington.
There are two primary types of glaucoma:
- Open-Angle Glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma occurs when blockage in the eye’s drainage system allows for fluid buildup, eventually damaging the optic nerve. This type of glaucoma occurs in both eyes and does not produce any symptoms while developing, which makes frequent visits to the eye doctor all the more important as you age. Open-angle glaucoma accounts for more than 90% of all glaucoma diagnoses
- Closed-Angle Glaucoma. This uncommon form of glaucoma is caused by an irregular position of the iris. When the iris shifts in position, it blocks the eye's drainage system. Closed-angle glaucoma typically develops in one eye at a time and may occur suddenly, resulting in rapid vision loss
Other Types of Glaucoma
In addition to the two primary types of glaucoma, the ophthalmologists at Kirk Eye Center can diagnose and provide treatment for less common forms of the conditions including:
- Irido Corneal Endothelial Syndrome (ICE)
- Neovascular Glaucoma
- Normal-Tension Glaucoma (NTG)
- Pigmentary Glaucoma
- Pseudoexfoliative Glaucoma
- Secondary Glaucoma
- Traumatic Glaucoma
- Uveitic Glaucoma
Congenital glaucoma, an inherited form of the disease, occurs when the eye’s drainage canals do not properly form during the prenatal period. Congenital glaucoma may be treated with medication, surgical intervention, or microsurgery. Like all other types of glaucoma, it cannot be cured, but it can be managed, allowing children born with this vision disorder to retain their sight for a lifetime with proper care.
Glaucoma is caused by inflation of pressure in the eye, causing damage to the optic nerve. Everyone is at risk for glaucoma, but the condition tends to develop most often in men and women over the age of 60. For people of African descent, the condition may begin to develop earlier.
You may be at a higher risk for glaucoma if you have a family history of the disease. It is also more common in people with high myopia (nearsightedness).
People of Hispanic, Asian, and African descent are more likely to develop glaucoma. So too are people who have suffered an eye injury or trauma. Hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are also known risk factors for glaucoma.
For many, there is little that can be done to reduce the risks of developing glaucoma. However, there are certain lifestyle choices that can increase your risks for glaucoma, the seconds leading cause of blindness in the United States. These include:
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol use
- Excessive caffeine intake
- Steroid use
- Overexposure to UVA/UVB rays
You may be able to reduce your risks for glaucoma by simply leading a healthier life. During your time in our care, we can provide you with additional information on the most effective ways to reduce your risks for this vision-stealing condition.
Diagnosing & Treating Glaucoma
Because glaucoma cannot be cured, early detection and prompt treatment remain the best ways to prevent future vision loss. We strongly encourage you to undergo regular glaucoma screenings as part of your yearly vision exams after the age of 40. These may include:
- Tonometry: Measurement of intraocular pressure
- Gonioscopy: An examination of the drainage system to detect abnormalities that can cause glaucoma
- Ophthalmoscopy: Microscopic examination of your optic nerve to identify signs of damage
- Visual field testing: A computerized visual field analyzer that determines whether your eye can detect small and dim lights in your peripheral vision
Glaucoma can be diagnosed through these methods, even when it is currently asymptomatic. As soon as the condition is diagnosed, appropriate treatment can begin.
Glaucoma is a blinding disease, but it is very treatable, often with the use of prescription eye drops. The goal of treatment is to lower the intraocular pressure. With careful monitoring and treatment, we can often prevent noticeable vision loss.
Depending on the type and severity of your glaucoma, Dr. Kirk may recommend one of the following treatments:
- Eye drops to lower intraocular pressure
- Laser treatment to increase the drainage of fluid from your eye
- Glaucoma surgery to create new drainage pathways in your eye
Glaucoma treatment is a major focus of Dr. Kirk's practice and he takes pride in providing exceptional glaucoma care. With extensive experience diagnosing and treating the condition, Dr. Kirk offers a variety of safe and effective treatment options, enabling him to meet the specific needs of each patient.
Contact Kirk Eye Center for a Vision Screening
If it has been longer than 12 months since your last vision screening or if you are experiencing vision difficulties or loss, please call Kirk Eye Center at 970-669-1107 to schedule a glaucoma screening today. We serve patients in Loveland, Fort Collins, Windsor, and communities throughout Northern Colorado.