More Information on Glaucoma

What is Glaucoma:

The optic nerve is the part of the eye that carries the images we see to the brain. Glaucoma damages the optic nerve.

What You Need To Do:

Get regular eye exams by an ophthalmologist. If your vision seems blurry, if you have severe eye pain, or if you see rainbow-colored halos around lights, call your eye doctor right away.

Why It's Important:

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States. Early treatment can often prevent loss of sight.


The optic nerve is made up of many nerve fibers that carry images to the brain. It's like an electric cable containing numerous wires. When glaucoma damages the optic nerve fibers, blind spots develop. If the entire nerve is destroyed, blindness results.

Chronic open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma in the United States. Typically, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages,and vision remains normal.

As the optic nerve becomes more damaged, blank spots begin to appear in your field of vision. You typically won't notice these blank spots in your day-to-day activities until the optic nerve is significantly damaged and these spots become large. If all the optic nerve fibers die, blindness results.

Some people are born with the iris (the colored part of the eye) too close to the drainage angle. In these eyes, which are often small and farsighted, the iris can be sucked into the drainage angle and block it completely. Since the fluid cannot exit the eye, pressure inside the eye builds rapidly and causes an acute closed-angle attack.

Symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma may include:

  • blurry vision
  • severe eye pain
  • headache
  • rainbow-colored haos around lights
  • nausea and vomiting

This is a true eye emergency. If you have any of these symptoms, call your eye doctor immediately. Unless this type of glaucoma is treated quickly, blindness can result. Unfortunately, two-thirds of those with closed-angle glaucoma develop it slowly without any symptoms warning an acute attack might be coming.


Treatment can prevent vision loss, but as a rule, damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible. Eyedrops, laser surgery, and conventional surgery can help prevent further damage. In some cases, oral medications may also be prescribed.

Glaucoma is usually controlled with eyedrops taken daily. These medications lower eye pressure, either by decreasing the amount of fluid produced within the eye or by improving the flow through the drainage angle.

While these medications can preserve your vision, they may also have side effects.

You should tell your ophthalmologist if you think you might be experiencing side effects.

Some eyedrops may cause:

  • stinging or itching
  • red eyes or redness of the skin around the eyes
  • changes in pulse and heartbeat
  • changes in energy level
  • changes in breathing (especially with asthma or emphysema)
  • dry mouth
  • changes in sense of taste
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • change in eye color

All medications can have side effects or can interact with other medications. Therefore, it is important that you make a list of the medications you take regularly and share this list with each doctor you see.

With any type of glaucoma, periodic examinations are very important to prevent vision loss. Because glaucoma can progress without you noticing, changes to your treatment may be necessary from time to time.

Regular eye examinations by your eye doctor are the best way to detect glaucoma. Contact us for an appointment

Of the following four common tests for glaucoma, the first two are routine.

The tonometry test measures the inner pressure of the eye. Usually drops are used to numb the eye. Then the doctor or technician will use a special device that measures the eye's pressure.

Ophthalmoscopy is used to examine the inside of the eye, especially the optic nerve. In a darkened room, the doctor will magnify your eye by using an ophthalmoscope (an instrument with a small light on the end).

The perimetry test is also called a visual field test. During this test, you will be asked to look straight ahead and then indicate when a moving light passes your peripheral (or side) vision. This helps draw a "map" of your vision.

Gonioscopy is a painless eye test that checks if the angle where the iris meets the cornea is open or closed, showing if either open angle or closed angle glaucoma is present. Some of these tests may not be necessary for everyone. These tests may need to be repeated on a regular basis to keep track of any changes in your condition.

The most important risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • age (60 years and older)
  • elevated eye pressure
  • family history of glaucoma
  • African or Spanish ancestry
  • farsightedness or nearsightedness
  • past eye injuries
  • steroid use
  • other health problems like diabetes or migraine headaches.

Your Eye doctor will weigh all of these factors before deciding whether you need treatment. You may simply need to be monitored closely. This means your risk of developing glaucoma is higher than normal. Regular medical eye exams can help prevent unnecessary vision loss.

Recommended intervals for eye exams are:

Ages 20 to 29: Individuals of African descent or with a family history of glaucoma should have an eye examination every 3 to 5 years. Others should have an eye exam at least once during this period.

Ages 30 to 39: Individuals of African descent or with a family history of glaucoma should have an eye examination every 2 to 4 years. Others should have an eye exam at least twice during this period.

Ages 40 to 64: Every 2 to 4 years.

Ages 65 or older: Every 1 to 2 years.