Employee & Community Health

FAQs: Test your glaucoma IQ

1/19/2017 by Dr. Bernard Aoun

ECH_glaucoma_widget

Glaucoma ended Minnesota Twins great Kirby Puckett's baseball career. Unfortunately, this eye disease can be "silent," with no symptoms until damage has been done. Test your IQ about glaucoma with these FAQs. 

Q: What is glaucoma?

A: Glaucoma is a disease that is caused by increased pressure in the eye, leading to nerve damage and blindness. 

Q: Why is it important to recognize glaucoma early?

A: The effects of glaucoma can be so gradual that you may not notice a change in your vision until the condition is at an advanced, irreversible stage. If glaucoma is recognized early, vision loss can be slowed or prevented. 

Q: What are the types of glaucoma? 

A: There are two main types: 

  • Angle-closure glaucoma. This can come on suddenly and is caused by a rapid rise in eye pressure due to poor drainage. 
  • Open-angle glaucoma. This is the most common type of the disease. Pressure build up is gradual and so if loss of vision.

Q: Who is at risk for glaucoma?

A: Glaucoma occurs mostly in people age 60 or older. African-Americans are at higher risk, while angle-closure glaucoma is more common in Asians. A family history of glaucoma also is a risk. 

Q: What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

A: The most common symptoms are vision loss, eye pain, seeing haloes or rainbows around lights or redness in your eye. You also may experience narrowing of vision or tunnel vision, headaches, nausea and vomiting. 

Q: When should I see a doctor?

A: If you experience sudden or rapidly changing vision, in addition to severe headache, severe eye pain, nausea or vomiting, you should seek care immediately. 

Q: Is there a test for glaucoma?

A: If you are having any symptoms of glaucoma, ask your primary care provider to do an eye (funduscopic) exam and test your field of vision. If needed, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist for more detailed testing. These include a tonometry test that measures the pressure in the eyes. If you think you are at risk, you should address your concerns with your primary care provider. Glaucoma screening frequently is done when getting your vision checked.

Q: How is glaucoma treated?

A: Several treatments are available, depending on the type of glaucoma:

  • Closed-angle glaucoma. Urgent treatment is required, which can include IV medications and/or laser surgery. This treatment often is done also in the unaffected eye as a preventive measure. 
  • Open-angle glaucoma. The most-common treatment is eye drops. Sometimes pills are prescribed to lower the pressure inside the eye. 

Laser treatment to open channels for fluid to escape provides another option if conservative treatments do not help. 

Q: Is there anything new in glaucoma treatment?

A: People undergoing cataract surgery sometimes can benefit from a new implant that also helps treat glaucoma. 

Q: Can glaucoma be cured?

A: Open-angle glaucoma cannot be cured. It's a chronic disease best managed by early detection and regular assessment, in addition to the treatments described above. Treatment for glaucoma is generally lifelong. 

A: Angle-closure glaucoma treatment depends on the cause, such as pupillary block, blockage by a tumor and hyperopia. Getting immediate care to relieve the high pressure can lead to better results. 

Dr. Bernard Aoun works in Employee and Community Health's Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine and specializes in internal medicine and geriatric medicine.