April 13, 2011

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma Eye Exam

Dr. Lam administering a Glaucoma test

What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of severe optical nerve diseases that show no signs of development. In fact, experts estimate that over half of the people carrying the disease may not know that they have glaucoma until it is too late. As of today, there is no cure for the disease and early detection is the only way to prevent the progress of the disease.


Symptoms from Glaucoma
Prevalent symptoms of Glaucoma are fairly easy to understand. As the disease progresses, your vision will seem to fluctuate in and out and peripheral vision ultimately fails. If left untreated, vision can be reduced to tunnel vision and eventually, complete blindness within a fairly short amount of time.

There are two types of Glaucoma, open-angle and acute closed-angle. In open angle, vision loss is gradual and there are no early symptoms. On the other hand, acute closed-angle glaucoma occurs rapidly and feels similar to a physical attack. One may experience rapid blurred vision, halos around lights, pain, nausea, vomiting, and complete blindness in a few days if left untreated.

Causes of Glaucoma
Glaucoma typically takes place when fluid builds up within the eye causing an immense amount of pressure. Under normal conditions, a canal is responsible for draining the eye fluid to prevent pressure build up; however, once that canal becomes plugged, the eye cannot withstand that pressure. In other instances, the eye may be producing more fluid than normal which causes insufficient drainage. Other causes of glaucoma can be traced to trauma, genetic disorders, and low blood flow to the optic nerve.

How to test for Glaucoma?
MPO utilizes these certain tests in a comprehensive eye examination to check for the development of Glaucoma, a group of diseases affecting the optic nerve. A common glaucoma test is the “puff-of-air” test, technically known as non-contact tonometry, or NCT. The test begins with the patient placing their chin on the machine’s chin rest. While the patient looks at a light inside the machine, the doctor or a trained eye care assistant from MPO Eyecare will puff a small burst of air at your open eye. This process is completely painless, and the tonometer never touches your eye. Based on your eye’s resistance to the puff of air, the machine calculates your intraocular pressure (IOP). If you have high eye pressure, you may be at risk for or have glaucoma.

Another type of glaucoma test is performed with an instrument called an applanation tonometer and is painless just like NCT. At most, you may feel the tonometer probe tickle your eyelashes. The whole test takes just a few seconds. Dr. Scott Lam will decide which test is appropriate for you. Vision loss is caused by damage to the optical nerve, the connector that relays messages from your eyes to your brain. Be sure to have regular check-ups for Glaucoma as it is vital to have the tests described above to slow down the progress of Glaucoma.