Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve, which carries the images we see from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma occurs when there is slow damage to the optic nerve due to increased pressure in the eye. This pressure is usually caused by poor drainage of the aqueous fluid out of the eye.
The most common form of glaucoma is called “primary open-angle glaucoma.” This condition is painless and the patient can slowly lose vision and not be aware of the problem until it is very advanced.
Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, especially for older people. If untreated, glaucoma can lead to total loss of vision, which is why early detection through routine eye exams and treatment are so important.
During your Glaucoma examination, your doctor will:
- Measure intraocular pressure (tonometry)
- Inspect the drainage angle of the eye (gonioscopy)
- Evaluate any optic nerve damage (ophthalmoscopy)
- Test the peripheral vision of each eye (visual field testing, or perimetry)
- Take color stereoscopic photographs of the optic nerves which are used to follow the appearance of the optic nerve
At The Rhode Island Eye Institute, we are proud to have the latest state-of-the-art technologies to help diagnose and manage glaucoma, including:
- FDT (Frequency Doubling Technology). This is a sensitive screening test to see if any glaucoma damage is present. It tests the health of the specific retinal cells that can be damaged in very early glaucoma.
- OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography). This remarkable device uses ordinary light to create a CAT-scan-like cross-section of the optic nerve and nerve fiber layers to detect damage from glaucoma.
In general, damage caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed once it has occurred. However, there are some treatments that can help slow or prevent further damage.
Eye drops taken on a daily basis can help control the effects of glaucoma. These medications decrease eye pressure, either by slowing the production of aqueous fluid within the eye or by improving the flow through the drainage angle out of the eye.
Laser surgery is used to improve the drainage of the aqueous fluid out of the eye and thereby reduce the eye pressure. And in some cases, conventional surgery is the only effective way of reducing eye pressure. During this procedure, a new drainage channel is created for the aqueous fluid to leave the eye.