Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, but early treatment can often prevent severe vision loss. Columbia Ophthalmology is at the forefront of diagnosing, treating, preventing, and researching glaucoma. We can help manage your glaucoma and ensure that you maintain as much quality vision as possible.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases that result in degeneration of the optic nerve, and many are caused by increased pressure inside the eye, which can lead to vision loss and even blindness. Still, early treatment can often prevent severe vision loss. Our specialists treat all forms of glaucoma, such as open and closed angle, normal-tension, and congenital glaucoma.
In most patients, glaucoma occurs when the pressure inside the eye builds because fluid is either slowed down or blocked, and this damages the optic nerve, which needs to be healthy to see well. The optic nerve is a bundle of more than 1 million nerve fibers. It connects the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, to the brain.
Anyone can develop glaucoma, but a person’s risk increases with age. But some people are at a higher risk for developing the condition than others. They include people with a family history of glaucoma, as well as African Americans and Hispanics.
In the beginning, glaucoma often has no symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, side or peripheral vision starts disappearing, and vision appears as if looking through a tunnel and eventually disappearing.
In acute closed-angle glaucoma, symptoms include severe pain and nausea, as well as redness of the eye and blurred vision. In chronic closed-angle glaucoma, symptoms include periods of headaches or eye pain. To be clear, this is a medical emergency, and you should seek care immediately.
Glaucoma is detected through the following comprehensive eye exam. Some ways Columbia ophthalmologists test for glaucoma include:
- Visual Acuity Test – An eye chart measures vision at various distances.
- Tonometry – An instrument that measures the pressure inside the eye.
- Pachymetry – An ultrasonic wave instrument measures the thickness of the cornea.
- Dilated Eye Exam – Drops are placed in the eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. A special magnifying lens examines the retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems.
- Visual Field Test – A computerized test measures peripheral vision.
- Optical Coherence Tomography – An instrument measures optic nerve thickness. The nerve fiber layers can get thinner in glaucoma as the disease progresses.
- Pictures – Pictures of the optic nerve, which can serve as a baseline to see if changes happen over time.