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Glaucoma in Nashville, TN

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What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a group of conditions that can deteriorate the optic nerve, which has the important job of carrying visual impulses to the brain. When neglected, glaucoma will typically cause long-term tunnel vision and/or total blindness. It's nearly always caused by increased intraocular pressure from built-up fluid.

Glaucoma primarily occurs in individuals beyond the age of 60. Currently, around two million individuals in the U.S. have glaucoma; however, many of them haven't been diagnosed. Initially, glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms and is commonly referred to as the "silent thief." Though a cure has not been found for the disease, it may be managed through early diagnosis and proper therapies.

This is a primary reason why receiving thorough eye examinations at least every other year is vital to your overall eye health. 

What are the Symptoms of glaucoma?

The many different types and stages of glaucoma often don't cause any symptoms to manifest in the initial stages. However, each version might also present one or a few symptoms that could range from minor to severe. When glaucoma starts to progress, people may first notice changes, like decreasing peripheral vision, dimmed vision, eye fatigue, and eye redness. As the disease advances even further, symptoms can start to include seeing rainbows around lights, loss of all but central vision, nausea, and eye discomfort. Since glaucoma doesn't commonly show any symptoms until its advanced stages, receiving regular, comprehensive eye exams is extremely important in detecting it soon enough to slow vision loss.

What Causes Glaucoma?

All types of glaucoma are caused by trauma to the optic nerve. Nearly always, this trauma is due to high internal eye pressure caused by problems with eye fluid drainage. In healthy eyes, the fluid that nourishes the eye tissue is allowed to drain to different areas via a special tissue, the trabecular meshwork, that exists between the iris and the cornea. In some patients, this flow can be obstructed or extremely slow, which leads to fluid buildup.

The most familiar kinds of glaucoma are diagnosed based on the functional capacity of the trabecular meshwork and the narrowness of the space between the iris and cornea. When fluid retention is the result of a malfunction inside the trabecular meshwork, it is considered open-angle glaucoma. In contrast, if the retention is the result of the drainage area between the cornea and iris becoming too narrow or obstructed, this is known as narrow- or closed-angle glaucoma. Research has shown that pressure-related glaucoma can run in families. Besides genetics and age, additional factors that could elevate intraocular pressure include extended use of corticosteroid eye drops, having abnormally thin corneal tissue, being Hispanic, Asian, or African American, and having certain health conditions, like diabetes mellitus. It is important to note that glaucoma can be the result of problems besides eye pressure. In these instances, it is called secondary glaucoma because it is the result of a separate, preexisting condition.

What are risk factors for glaucoma?

Some patients may be at a higher risk than others for developing glaucoma. In general, a history of diabetes or hypertension can increase your risk for glaucoma. In addition, a family history and thin corneas are genetic factors that add to your chances of developing glaucoma. In your appointment at Wang Vision Institute, please share any and all of these medical history facts with your provider so that they can provide you with the best preventive care possible.

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

Several necessary tests are done to establish if someone has glaucoma. Each of the tests is very comfortable, fairly easy, and fast. Usually, these will include measuring the intraocular pressure (tonometry) and how thick the cornea is (pachymetry), determining the width of the pathway between the cornea and iris (gonioscopy), observing and recording the appearance of the optic nerve, testing the patient’s degree of side (peripheral) vision, and looking for any spots of blindness.

How is glaucoma treated?

After a glaucoma diagnosis is made, there are multiple methods patients can use to effectively manage it. All of these methods focus on decreasing intraocular pressure to prevent further injury to the optical nerve. Many patients who are in the initial stages of glaucoma are often able to delay or interrupt their vision loss by controlling glaucoma with specialized eye drops.

For those whose condition is further along, more extensive treatments, such as MIGS (minimally invasive glaucoma surgery) or a trabeculectomy, can potentially help the condition significantly. 

Glaucoma FAQ

Is glaucoma caused by diabetes?
Many factors can lead to a glaucoma diagnosis. However, diabetes can double the chances of experiencing glaucoma. This is why, if you have diabetes, you should attend regular diabetic eye exams to evaluate your eye health.

What are the three common types of glaucoma?
There are three common types of glaucoma, including:

  • Angle-closure glaucoma – restricting of the drains of the eye
  • Open-angle glaucoma – the eyes contain too much fluid
  • Normal pressure glaucoma – normal pressure remains in the eye even when drain problems occur

How do I know which glaucoma treatment is right for me?
The exact glaucoma treatment that is right for you may be dependent upon the kind of glaucoma you have and how advanced it is. During a thorough consultation at our facility, our Nashville, TN, eye surgeons can evaluate your condition and recommend the ideal treatment for you. We will help you understand your treatment options and create a procedure plan that will provide optimal results.

At what age should I start being checked for glaucoma?
Eye health is unique for each patient, but typically patients over the age of 40 should be checked for glaucoma during routine eye exams. Glaucoma can happen at any age but is more common in older adults over the age of 60.

Can glaucoma be cured?
Currently, there is no cure for glaucoma. However, there are several effective treatments that help to manage IOP (intraocular pressure) and preserve eye health. Regular eye exams for early diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma are the most effective way to ensure the overall health of your vision.

Can glaucoma cause blindness?
Because there are a wide variety of procedures and medications to treat glaucoma, blindness caused by glaucoma is now very rare. In the U.S., only about 5% of people diagnosed with glaucoma will go blind.

Take Control of Glaucoma

It’s important to know that receiving a diagnosis and intervention in the early stages can help you keep your glaucoma under control. 

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