How is Glaucoma Diagnosed and Treated?

Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States, and the rest of the world. Estimates suggest that more than 3 million Americans are living with glaucoma and this number is expected to rise in the coming decade.


What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma occurs when there is too much pressure inside the eye, and this pressure causes damage to the optic nerve.

It isn’t always clear why some people experience high intraocular pressure and develop glaucoma. However, there are some groups of people who are more likely to experience glaucoma. These include:

  • People over the age of 50

  • Those with a family history of glaucoma

  • People of African, Caribbean, or Asian descent

  • Individuals with other medical conditions that affect your eyes, including myopia, hyperopia, and diabetes/diabetic retinopathy


Signs and symptoms of glaucoma

One of the biggest challenges of glaucoma is detecting it yourself. Most cases are picked up by eye doctors at routine eye appointments, rather than being the result of a visit to your eye doctor triggered by symptoms.

Peripheral vision is usually the first casualty of glaucoma. This is the very edge of your vision, which may start to disappear. Other symptoms to be aware of include:

  • Redness of the white of the eye

  • Headaches

  • Tenderness around the eyes

  • Rings around lights

  • Generally blurred vision

In rare cases, glaucoma may come on very suddenly. This is known as acute glaucoma and is classed as a medical emergency. Some of the symptoms of acute glaucoma include:

  • Intense eye pain

  • Nausea/vomiting

  • Headache

  • Blurred vision

  • Painful eyes

  • Visual disturbances

If you experience any of these symptoms, you should contact your emergency eye doctor or visit your emergency room as soon as you can.  


How is glaucoma diagnosed?

If your eye doctor suspects that you have glaucoma, they will perform several different tests to confirm a diagnosis. These tests could include:

  • Intraocular pressure testing. A special instrument is used to measure the amount of pressure inside your eye. The test is non-invasive though some people can find it a little uncomfortable. However, it only takes a few seconds to perform and there are no lasting effects.  


  • Visual field test. A visual field test assesses your peripheral vision to determine if it is as good as it should be.  

  • Optic nerve assessment. This test is carried out using eye drops and a slit lamp, which is a microscope with a bright light, and these enable your eye doctor to visualize your optic nerve to check that it looks healthy and there are no abnormalities.


How is glaucoma treated?

Unfortunately, any vision damage caused by glaucoma is permanent. Fortunately, some treatments can be used to control glaucoma and prevent it from doing any further damage to your vision.  

Eyedrops. Eyedrops are usually the first line of treatment for non-acute glaucoma, and there are a few different types that contain medications that can lower and control the amount of pressure within your eye.

Oral medications. Oral medications are usually recommended if eyedrops aren’t reducing your intraocular pressure enough or quickly enough. This treatment is also the first option for patients with acute glaucoma, where it is essential to get the pressure under control as quickly as possible.

Laser treatment. This is normally recommended for patients with acute angle glaucoma and is combined with oral medication to quickly and effectively reduce eye pressure. Laser treatment is carried out using a local anesthetic, and the laser is used to open and widen the drainage channels within the eye to let fluid escape and reduce the pressure.

Trabeculectomy. Recommended for severe glaucoma, a trabeculectomy is a surgical procedure to remove blockages within the eye’s natural drainage system to reduce the level of pressure inside, and is an alternative to laser treatment.

If you would like more information about glaucoma and how it is treated, please contact Shalimar Eye Care at (850) 972-1600 to reach our office in Shalimar, Florida.