Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment in the US, and can affect patients of all ages, many of who do not experience any symptoms and may not be aware that they have the disease. Glaucoma actually refers to a group of diseases that cause damage to the optic nerve as a result of increased pressure within the eye, but can also be caused by a severe eye infection, injury, blocked blood vessels or inflammatory conditions of the eye.

There are two main types of glaucoma, open-angle and angle-closure. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma and involves fluid in the eye not draining properly through the trabecular meshwork. Angle-closure glaucoma involves a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye and poor drainage because the angle between the iris and the cornea is too narrow.

Many patients do not experience any symptoms during the early stages of glaucoma, including no pain and no vision loss. This makes it difficult for many patients to know if they have the disease. But as glaucoma progresses, patients may experience a loss of peripheral or side vision, along with sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision or the appearance of halos around lights.

Diagnosing Glaucoma

While some patients may experience symptoms from glaucoma as the disease progresses, others do not learn they have the condition until they undergo a routine eye exam. There are several different exams performed to diagnose glaucoma, including a visual field and visual acuity test. These tests measure peripheral vision and how well patients can see at various distances. Other tests may also be performed, such as tonometry to measure the pressure inside the eye and pachymetry to measure the thickness of the cornea.

Treatment for Glaucoma

Once glaucoma has been diagnosed, treatment should begin as soon as possible to help minimize the risk of permanent vision loss. There is no cure for glaucoma, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms and preventing further damage from occurring. Most cases of glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, laser surgery or microsurgery. The best treatment for your individual case depends on the type and severity of the disease, and can be discussed with your doctor.

  • Eye drops are used to reduce fluid production in the front of the eye or to help drain excess fluid, but can lead to redness, stinging, irritation or blurry vision. Patients should tell their doctor about any allergies they have to minimize the risk of side effects.
  • Laser surgery for glaucoma aims to increase the outflow of fluid from the eye or eliminate fluid blockages through laser trabeculoplasty, iridotomy or cyclophotocoagulation.
  • Microsurgery involves a surgical procedure called a trabeculectomy, which creates a new channel to drain fluid from the eye and reduce the pressure that causes glaucoma. Surgery is often performed after medication and laser procedures have failed.

Preventing Glaucoma

While there are no surefire ways to prevent glaucoma from developing, regular screenings and early detection are the best forms of protection against the harmful damage that the disease can cause. While anyone can develop glaucoma, some people are at a higher risk for developing disease. These people may include those who:

  • Are over the age of 60
  • African Americans over the age of 40
  • Have a family history of glaucoma
  • Have poor vision
  • Have diabetes

Patients should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years, especially if they have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Older patients may be encouraged to be tested more frequently.

To learn more about glaucoma and how you can be tested for this serious condition, please call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors.

Do I have glaucoma?

Glaucoma testing in our office helps us determine whether you have glaucoma.  We will examine your eyes and test the eye pressure, the optic nerve in the back of your eye, and peripheral vision.

Will I go blind?

The optic nerve damage from increased eye pressure accumulates over time.  While there is no way to reverse vision loss, early detection and treatment can help preserve sight.

How do I know if I have glaucoma?

Open angle glaucoma does not have any early warning signs or symptoms.  Over time, the peripheral vision may diminish and eventually only a pinhole of vision remains centrally.

I have glaucoma, but my eyes don’t hurt.  Do I need to use my glaucoma eye drops?


Will the eye drops bring my vision back?


How often do I need to use my glaucoma eye drops?

Every day

What if they burn?

It is normal for the eyedrops to burn briefly after putting a drop in the eye.  Sometimes the eyes may be sensitive or dry and it may help to use artificial tears a few times daily for improved comfort.

I heard you can do laser for glaucoma so I don’t have to use eye drops.  Is that true?

Sometimes it is hard to use the eye drops consistently.  There may be irritation, redness, or pain with eye drops.  For others, work or travel makes it difficult.  The SLT laser may be a great option to help control the eye pressure to the desired level.

My friend had a glaucoma treatment with cataract surgery.  Does this really work?

We are excited to offer surgical treatments combined with cataract surgery to help our patients gain better control of their eye pressure.  iStent and endoscopic cyclophotocoagulation laser are tried and true options for the right patient.

What’s the best way to prevent glaucoma?

The best way to protect your vision is with regular monitoring to catch it and treat it before it causes vision loss

What causes glaucoma?

Crowding of structures in the eye can clog the drains of the eye and lead to high eye pressure.  Medications and injuries can also lead to glaucoma.  We will do a thorough examination and review your medical history to look for culprits.