January: National Glaucoma Awareness Month

My Eyelab Glaucoma Blog Post

When was the last time you had an eye exam? Have you been tested for glaucoma?

If the answers to those questions is a “no,” it’s time to schedule an eye exam, and get tested for glaucoma. January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month. That’s why  we’ve compiled information on Glaucoma and the importance of getting a yearly eye exam in order to detect glaucoma early on.

Glaucoma, What is it?

When the Optometrists diagnoses someone with Glaucoma, he is referring to the build-up of fluid in the eye that starts to put pressure on the optic nerve. Glaucoma is something that can show no symptoms, but can become increasingly painful over time. If glaucoma is detected, and damage to the optic nerve starts to happen, it must be treated immediately to avoid further damage to your vision.

Detecting Glaucoma

At My Eyelab, we use the Tonometry test to diagnose glaucoma. The Tonometry test measures the pressure inside your eye, which is called the Intraocular Pressure or IOP. It measures the pressure in your eye by recording the resistance of your cornea to the pressure applied. The method used at My Eyelab, is the noncontact tonometry method. Another name for this method is the air puff test, and it uses a puff of air to flatten your cornea. This method is the easiest way to check for high IOP and is also the best way to test children. The IOP is considered normal when it is between 12 – 22 mm Hg. If the eye pressure is above 22 mm Hg, it is considered higher than normal and could be a sign of glaucoma.

Causes of Glaucoma

In simple terms, glaucoma is caused by the filter which allows eye fluid to drain out of the eye gets blocked causing the fluid to become trapped behind the clogged filter. When the internal eye structure is prevented from regulating intraocular pressure (IOP), the eye pressure levels can rise quickly and cause glaucoma. Since the eyes don’t have a way to relieve the pressure, the pressure continues to build and begins to push against the optic nerve, causing the optic nerve fibers to become damaged and cause vision loss. When glaucoma progresses, the injured neurons cause eye damage in the form of peripheral vision loss.

To add, the eye’s anatomy contains drainage angles. If these drainage angles are narrow or closed, it makes it difficult for the eye to release the fluid or aqueous. An open angle can also interrupt the flow of aqueous, if structural damage already exist within the ocular tissue of the angle itself.

A high IOP is known to cause glaucoma, but having a normal IOP can also cause glaucoma. This is common for people who have highly pressure-sensitive optic nerves, that are susceptible to damage from what is considered to be a “normal” IOP. The best way to detect glaucoma with a normal IOP is by directly examining the optic nerve and a visual field test.

Who is Most at Risk for Glaucoma?

In most cases, glaucoma is a result of genetic history. It can also occur as part of health conditions such as diabetes. The condition does not usually start showing until the person reaches their 40s. However, symptoms such as blurred vision and pain associated with the eye have been known to occur in people who are much younger.

Treatment for Glaucoma

Some of the common treatments for glaucoma can range from prescribed eye drops, to surgical procedures to repair the condition. The prognosis for recovery is high, as long as the condition is diagnosed and treated in the early stages.

If glaucoma is left untreated or ignored it could result in severe vision issues and in some cases blindness. By scheduling a yearly eye exam at a My Eyelab location near you, glaucoma can be avoided and treated immediately.