Glaucoma in Seattle, WA
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What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a set of conditions that can deteriorate the eye's optic nerve, which has the important job of sending visual impulses to the brain. If not treated early enough, glaucoma will often lead to tunnel vision and/or complete blindness. It is virtually always due to high intraocular pressure from fluid buildup. Glaucoma primarily impacts those past 60 years of age. Today, about two million individuals in this country have glaucoma, many of whom are undiagnosed. Early on, glaucoma has no obvious symptoms and is commonly referred to as the "silent thief." Although there is no cure for the condition, it may be controlled via early diagnosis and the appropriate treatments.
This condition is an important reason why having comprehensive eye exams a minimum of every two years is critical to your overall eye health. At SPEX, we have state-of-the-art diagnostic methods and are extensively trained in the most advanced management methods. If you are over 40 years old, call us at our Seattle, WA practice to plan your comprehensive exam.
What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
The many types and severities of glaucoma typically don't have any symptoms at all in the beginning. However, each type might also cause one or two symptoms that feel mild or extreme. When glaucoma begins to become more advanced, patients usually initially notice problems like reduced peripheral vision, blurred vision, tension headaches, and bloodshot eyes. As the condition progresses, symptoms often start to include a pronounced glare, tunnel vision, nausea, and sore eyes. Because glaucoma doesn't usually cause any symptoms at first, receiving regular comprehensive eye exams is imperative for catching it soon enough to prevent vision loss.
How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Dr. Campbell uses many required tests to learn whether a patient has glaucoma. Every one of these tests are completely comfortable, fairly simple, and fast. First, he will expand the pupils and possibly anesthetize the eyes using special eye drops. Once the eye drops have done their job, Dr. Campbell will begin conducting the tests. Usually, these will include evaluating the intraocular pressure (tonometry) and the corneal thickness (pachymetry), determining the width of the space between the iris and cornea (gonioscopy), examining and recording the condition of the optic nerve, determining the patient’s scope of peripheral vision, and checking for any spots of vision loss.
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
The damage caused by glaucoma is permanent, which is why it's important to be proactive about scheduling eye examinations and diagnostic screenings. With timely treatment, you can prevent further damage and preserve your vision. Treatment options for glaucoma include:
- Eyedrops: Prescription eyedrops for glaucoma are designed to alleviate pressure buildup in the eye, either by helping with drainage or reducing the amount of fluid produced. You may need to use eyedrops anywhere from 1 – 4 times a day, depending on which medicine is prescribed for you.
- Laser surgery: For more complex cases of glaucoma, laser treatments may be required. Laser treatments target specific areas of the eye with high-energy light to reduce fluid production and improve drainage. Laser glaucoma surgery is performed with local anesthetic to minimize any sensation you might feel.
- Conventional eye surgery: Surgery is generally reserved for when more conservative treatments haven't worked. There are several types of eye surgery for glaucoma, but the most common is a trabeculectomy, which involves creating an additional drainage channel in the eye. Other types of glaucoma surgery may involve the placement of stents to improve drainage.
The glaucoma treatment recommended for your situation will depend on a number of factors, including which type of glaucoma you have, your age, your medical history, and how advanced your case is. During your glaucoma consultation at SPEX, you can discuss the risks and benefits of each treatment to determine which is best for you.
What To Expect From Glaucoma
All cases of glaucoma are caused by damage to the optic nerve. This damage is caused by increased intraocular pressure from eye fluid retention. In normally functioning eyes, the fluid required by the eye tissue can flow back and forth through a remarkable tissue, the trabecular meshwork, which supports the area between the iris and the cornea. For some patients, this flow can be obstructed or much too slow, which leads to built-up fluid.
The two main kinds of glaucoma are categorized based on the condition of the trabecular meshwork and the size of the pathway between the cornea and iris. If the fluid buildup is caused by a malfunction within the trabecular meshwork, it is called open-angle glaucoma. In contrast, if the retention is occurring due to the space between the cornea and iris being too tight or obstructed, this is called narrow- or closed-angle glaucoma. Research data has proven that glaucoma caused by intraocular pressure is often inherited. In addition to heredity and the aging process, more factors that can impact intraocular pressure include excessive use of corticosteroid eye drops, having very thin corneal tissue, being Hispanic, Asian, or African American, and having certain health conditions, for example, high blood pressure. It is important to note that glaucoma can be related to problems other than eye pressure. When this happens, it is considered secondary glaucoma, as it is a symptom of a separate, preexisting condition.
Dr. Campbell does several key tests to determine if a patient has glaucoma. Each of the tests is painless, relatively easy, and over with quickly. First, he will expand the pupils and maybe anesthetize the eyes using eye drops. Most of the time, these tests will include assessing the pressure inside the eye (tonometry) and the thickness of the cornea (pachymetry), looking at the size of the space between the cornea and iris (gonioscopy), examining and digitally imaging the appearance of the optic nerve, testing the patient’s degree of outer (as opposed to central) vision, and testing for any regions of vision loss.
This is the first time I've had fun at an optometrist appointment. I played a light video game thing to test for glaucoma, got a cool scan of my eyeball showing the nerves and retinal attachment, and another scan to check eye-related brain tissue. Dr. Campbell explained every procedure and result and seemed excited that I had questions, unlike some other places I've been too that seem to be trying to push patients through as fast as possible. Dr. Campbell also used the minimum necessary amount of eye dilation liquid, so I was able to go right back to computer work without needing sunglasses inside. Overall, best optometrist experience I've had in 16 years of having glasses. Go here.
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Take Control Of Glaucoma
At SPEX, we often have consultations with patients living with glaucoma and are happy to support them in managing the condition. It’s important to know that getting a diagnosis and treatment in the initial stages of this condition can allow you to keep your symptoms under control. Dr. Campbell recommends that anyone who has these symptoms, has a family history of glaucoma, or who has already been diagnosed with glaucoma schedule an appointment at his Seattle, WA facility.
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Can glaucoma be cured?
There is no cure for glaucoma, but it can be managed through ongoing treatment and monitoring. Early detection and treatment are imperative for preventing vision loss.
Can glaucoma be successfully managed without medication?
Possibly. However, most patients who have glaucoma detected early will be diagnosed eye drops for the condition. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a healthy diet, and not smoking can all help manage glaucoma. Additionally, it is important to follow Dr. Campbell’s instructions for managing glaucoma and attending regular eye exams at SPEX.
How often should my eyes be checked for glaucoma?
It is generally recommended that people over the age of 40 have a comprehensive eye exam every 1-2 years to check for glaucoma and other eye conditions. However, people with a family history of glaucoma or other risk factors, such as high eye pressure or certain medical conditions, may need to be examined more frequently. Additionally, those over the age over the age of 65 should get checked for glaucoma at least annually. Dr. Campbell can recommend an appropriate exam schedule based on your individual risk factors and medical history.