Glaucoma mainly occurs in adults over the age of 40, but glaucoma can sometimes affect children too. Risk factors include a family history of the disease, African-American descent, high myopia and diabetes.

Yearly examinations with Dr. Leonard will be sufficient to check for glaucoma. If you have any risk factors, she will check your eye pressure, checking for damage to the optic nerve, and check for damage to the drainage system in the eye.

Glaucoma is often treated with medications (eyedrops or tablets). They work by decreasing the eye pressure by either reducing fluid production in the eye or increasing outflow of fluid from the eye. Other treatment options are available including laser surgery and intraocular filtration surgery. Dr. Leonard will discuss the right treatment options for you.

Glaucoma is a chronic disease and needs to be regarded as such. It is important to keep all appointments with
Dr. Leonard and to take medications as recommended on time. Once diagnosed with glaucoma, patients need life-long care to maintain good vision. It is important to understand that glaucoma cannot be cured but it can be controlled.

Glaucoma affects an estimated 3 million Americans, with 120,000 blind due to the condition. Elsewhere in the world, glaucoma treatment is less available, and glaucoma ranks as a leading cause of blindness just about everywhere. Even if people with glaucoma do not become blind, vision can be severely impaired.

How can glaucoma be treated?

The best way to prevent vision loss from glaucoma is early diagnosis and treatment. A test called a visual field may be performed on glaucoma suspects to detect peripheral vision loss. It involves staring straight ahead into a machine and clicking a button when you notice a blinking light in your peripheral vision. The visual field test may be repeated at regular intervals to determine and monitor the extent of vision loss.

Glaucoma treatment (for any form) entails decreasing aqueous humor production, increasing fluid drainage or a combination of the two. These treatments will not restore any vision already lost to glaucoma.

There are many types of eye pressure-lowering drops including beta-blockers, alpha-2 agonists, and prostaglandin analogs. Many of the drugs used for glaucoma interact with common medications. Patients should discuss these issues with both the family physician and Dr. Leonard.

What are the different types of glaucoma?

  • Open-angle glaucoma

    With this most common type of glaucoma, the fluid that normally flows through the pupil into the anterior chamber of the eye cannot get through the filtration area to the drainage canals, causing a build-up of pressure in the eye. Nearly 3 million Americans – half of whom do not know they have the disease – are affected by glaucoma each year.

  • Low-tension or normal-tension glaucoma

    While normal intraocular pressure ranges between 12 to 21 mm Hg, an individual may have glaucoma even if the pressure is within this range. This type of glaucoma presents optic nerve damage and narrowed side vision.

  • Angle-closure glaucoma

    In angle-closure glaucoma, the fluid at the front of the eye cannot reach the angle and leave the eye because the angle becomes blocked by part of the iris. This results in a sudden increase in pressure and is generally a medical emergency, requiring immediate treatment to improve the flow of fluid.

  • Childhood glaucoma

    Childhood glaucoma is a rare form of glaucoma that often develops in infancy, early childhood, or adolescence. Prompt medical treatment is important in preventing blindness.

  • Congenital glaucoma

    Congenital glaucoma, a type of childhood glaucoma, occurs in children born with defects in the angle of the eye that slow the normal drainage of fluid. Prompt medical treatment is important in preventing blindness.

  • Primary glaucoma

    Both open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma can be classified as primary or secondary. Primary glaucoma cannot be contributed to any known cause or risk factor.

  • Secondary glaucoma

    Both open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma can be classified as primary or secondary. Secondary glaucoma develops as a complication of another medical condition or injury. In rare cases, secondary glaucoma is a complication following another type of eye surgery.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

Most people who have glaucoma do not notice any symptoms until they begin to lose some vision. As optic nerve fibers are damaged by glaucoma, small blind spots may begin to develop, usually in the side or peripheral vision. Many people do not notice the blind spots until significant optic nerve damage has already occurred. If the entire nerve is destroyed, blindness results.

One type of glaucoma, acute angle-closure glaucoma, does produce noticeable symptoms because there is a rapid build-up of pressure in the eye. The following are the most common symptoms of this type of glaucoma. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • blurred or narrowed field of vision
  • severe pain in the eye(s)
  • haloes (which may appear as rainbows) around lights
  • redness of the eye
  • nausea and vomiting
  • headache

The symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma may resemble other eye conditions. Consult a physician immediately if you notice symptoms, as this type of glaucoma is considered a medical emergency requiring prompt medical attention to prevent blindness.