Expert Care for Eye Disease by Our Eye Doctor in Los Osos and Paso Robles
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness, yet vision loss and damage from glaucoma is not inevitable! If this eye disease is detected early by a comprehensive eye exam, treatment can be started early. And the earlier that you receive glaucoma treatment, the much better your prognosis. Although the risk of glaucoma is greater for patients over 40, our eye doctors in Paso Robles and Los Osos include glaucoma screening for patients of all ages who visit for a complete eye exam. This is the most reliable way to detect the early signs of eye disease.
Prevention is possible only with early detection and treatment. Since symptoms are often absent, regular eye exams which include a glaucoma screening are essential, particularly for individuals at risk of the disease. While anyone can get glaucoma, the following traits put you at a higher risk:
- Age over 60
- Hispanic or Latino descent, Asian descent
- African Americans over the age of 40 (glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in African Americans, 6-8 times more common than in Caucasians.)
- Family history of glaucoma
- People with severe nearsightedness
- Certain medications (e.g. steroids)
- Significant eye injury (even if it occurred in childhood)
Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma: Due to a buildup of pressure in the eye, glaucoma causes damage to the optic nerve which is responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain. How does glaucoma affect your vision?
Types of Glaucoma: There are a number of types of glaucoma, some more acute than others. Learn about the common types of glaucoma and the differences between them.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Glaucoma: Early detection and treatment of glaucoma is essential to stopping or slowing the disease progression and saving vision. Treatment can include medicated eye drops, pills, laser procedures and minor surgical procedures depending on the type and stage of glaucoma.
Signs and Symptoms of Glaucoma
The intraocular pressure caused by glaucoma can slowly damage the optic nerve, causing a gradual loss in vision. Vision loss begins with peripheral (side) vision, resulting in limited tunnel vision. Over time if left untreated, central vision will also be affected which will increase until it eventually causes total blindness. Unfortunately any vision that is lost from the optic nerve damage cannot be restored.
What are the Symptoms?
Typically, glaucoma sets in without any symptoms. At the early onset of the most common type of glaucoma “open angle” glaucoma, vision remains normal and there is no pain or discomfort. This is why the disease is nicknamed the “sneak thief of sight”.
An acute type of glaucoma, called angle-closure glaucoma, can present sudden symptoms such as foggy, blurred vision, halos around lights, eye pain, headache and even nausea. This is a medical emergency and should be assessed immediately as the intraocular pressure can become extremely high and cause permanent damage within hours.
Types of Glaucoma
The primary forms of glaucoma are open-angle and narrow-angle, with open-angle being the most common type.
Primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) gradually progresses without pain or noticeable vision loss initially affecting peripheral vision. By the time visual symptoms appear, irreparable damage has usually occurred, however the sooner treatment starts the more further vision loss can be prevented. When untreated, vision loss will eventually result in total loss of side vision (or tunnel vision) and eventually total vision loss.
Normal-tension glaucoma or low-tension glaucoma is another form of open-angle glaucoma in which the intraocular pressure remains within the normal level. The cause of this form of glaucoma is not known, but it is believed to have something to do with insufficient blood flow to the optic nerve, causing damage. Individuals of Japanese descent, women and those with a history of vascular disease or low blood pressure are at higher risk.
Angle-closure glaucoma can be a sudden increase in eye pressure causing severe pain, blurred vision, halos, nausea and headaches. The pressure is caused by a blockage in fluid at the front of the eye which is a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Without prompt treatment to clear the blockage vision can be permanently lost.
Congenital glaucoma is an inherited form of the disease that is present at birth. The babies are born with a defect that slows the normal drainage of fluid out of the eye and are usually diagnosed by the time they turn one. In these cases there are typically some noticeable symptoms such as excessive tearing, cloudiness or haziness of the eyes, large or protruding eyes or light sensitivity. Surgery is usually performed with a very high success rate of restoring full vision.
Secondary glaucomas are complications that develop from eye surgeries, injuries or other medical conditions such as cataracts, tumors, or a condition called uveitis which causes inflammation. Uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes can result of another serious form called neovascular glaucoma.
Pigmentary glaucoma is a rare form in which pigment from the iris sheds and clogs the drainage of fluid from the eye resulting in inflammation and damage to the eye and drainage system. .
Treatment of glaucoma is dependant upon the severity and type of glaucoma present.
Glaucoma Testing Procedures
The main indication of glaucoma is higher-than-normal levels of the fluid inside your eye. Yet, during your comprehensive eye exam our eye doctor will be able to identify other symptoms that may appear on your optic nerve and retinal tissues. In order to ensure high diagnostic accuracy in our optometrist clinics in Los Osos and Paso Robles, we may use the following devices:
This procedure measures intraocular pressure. Our eye doctor will either administer a “puff test”, which blows a mild puff of air across your eye, or place a specialized probe (with a blue light) gently on the surface of your eye. If the results from either of these tests are high, you have a problem with the amount of fluid in your eye. However, glaucoma cannot be diagnosed entirely on the basis of tonometry; more diagnostic information is needed.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT Scans)
OCT scans are one type of digital imagery that our Los Osos and Paso Robles eye doctor may use to form images of your inner eye structure. Since this imaging is done repeatedly over a series of visits, we can analyze and compare the results – which is a reliable way to look out for changes. Differences in the images can provide important information about progressive glaucoma damage, and we can then treat it appropriately.
Visual Field Testing
Glaucoma typically attacks side (peripheral) vision first. This is one reason why many people don’t notice the onset of glaucoma. Yet unfortunately, once vision loss occurs in the center field, it means that the glaucoma has been present for a long while. Only routine eye exams can identify the early onset of glaucoma, and visual field testing is a helpful measure that your eye doctor may use.
With visual field testing, a light signal will be displayed in various areas of your peripheral vision, over and over. You will need to place your head in front of a machine, look ahead and provide feedback when you see the light signal. If you have already been diagnosed with glaucoma, this test will likely be repeated every few months. If your eye doctor notices any deterioration or new areas of vision damage, a change in your glaucoma treatment may be necessary.
Glaucoma Treatment in Los Osos and Paso Robles
The primary goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower or stabilize intraocular pressure. This will ideally prevent glaucoma from damaging your optic nerve. The first type of treatment that we will recommend for open-angle glaucoma is generally prescription eye drops. The patient must insert this medication regularly, according to the doctor’s instructions. Depending upon the severity of the glaucoma and how far it has advanced, other possible treatments include pills, conventional surgery, laser procedures, or a combination of both.
Remember- the only reliable way to diagnose or rule out glaucoma, as well as other eye diseases associated with aging (such as macular degeneration and cataracts), is through routine comprehensive eye exams with glaucoma screening. Contact our eye doctors in Paso Robles and Los Osos to schedule your appointment.
Our Paso Robles eye doctors offer diagnosis and treatment of many eye conditions, including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and cataracts.