We asked Dr. Pengelly at Underhill Optometry about Glaucoma and she kindly spoke with us about it. This is the first of a 2-part series of questions and answers on what is Glaucome.
Q. What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease of the eye, where the nerve tissues die at a faster rate. This can lead to loss of vision and even blindness. It impacts the side (peripheral) vision first, so many people do not notice changes until it is more late stage. The sharpness of the vision is not impacted until much later in the disease.
An interesting fact is that there are a few different types of glaucoma. Most commonly people think of open-angle glaucoma. However, there is another type called closed-angle glaucoma. An acute angle-closure glaucoma attack can cause a lot of damage in a short period of time as it causes a very quick and high increase in the intraocular pressure (pressure within the eye), which can lead to a lot of nerve tissue and permanent vision loss.
Q. What causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the result of damage to the optic nerve. A traditional definition was that elevated eye pressure (intraocular pressure) caused glaucoma due to the additional stress that lead to nerve tissues dying faster than they should. However, we know that people with "normal" eye pressure can still have glaucoma and need treatment. As well, we have discovered that individuals with high intraocular pressure may experience no damage and are classified as "ocular hypertensive", and are just monitored for changes.
Q. Who gets glaucoma?
There are many factors that contribute towards glaucoma. Risk factors include - age- having a family history- race - black, Asian or Hispanic are at greater risk for glaucom- being extremely nearsighted or farsighted- certain systemic conditions: diabetes, blood pressure, Raynaud's syndrome, thyroid issues, sleep apnea- having previous trauma to the eye
Q. How is glaucoma harmful to vision?
It causes the nerve tissues to die faster than they should. Which leads to a progressive loss of vision. It starts peripherally (side vision), and if left untreated will progress towards your central vision, and could even lead to blindness. The most common type, open-angle glaucoma, is usually painless, so patients are not aware of an issue until it is late stage.
Q. Will I go blind from glaucoma?
With intervention, typically in the form of eye drops to start, glaucoma progression can be slowed down. At this point in time there is no cure, but damage can be slowed to a minimum in some cases. There are a few unfortunate times, where the eye does not respond to treatment and blindness can result.