Glaucoma Specialist in Charleston SC

Glaucoma Specialist in Charleston SC

Are you concerned that you may have glaucoma? Our eyes are so important to us and anything that affects them negatively can be a scary thing. Below you will find information that answeres some of the most common questions we get regarding glaucoma such as:

What is glaucoma?
What causes glaucoma?
What is the first sign of glaucoma?
Are there different kinds of glaucoma?
Who is at risk for glaucoma?
How do I know if I have glaucoma?
Can glaucoma go away?
How fast does glaucoma progress?
How can you treat glaucoma?
How long does glaucoma surgery take?

If you think you may have glaucoma don’t wait another day to get examined. Contact us today at (843) 553–2477 to speak with a specialist that can walk you through the entire process.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is part of the eye that carries the images we see from the eye to the brain. The optic nerve is made up of many nerve fibers (like an electric cable containing numerous wires). Glaucoma damages nerve fibers, which can cause blind spots in our vision and vision loss to develop. When the clear liquid called the aqueous humor –which normally flows in and out of the eye- cannot drain properly, pressure builds up in the eye. The resulting increase in intraocular pressure (IOP) can damage the optic nerve – thus causing glaucoma.

Eye Anatomy

What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma is actually a group of eye diseases that tends to run in families, but usually doesn’t manifest until later in life. It is characterized by damage to the optic nerve due to excessively high intraocular pressure (IOP). While it is believed to be inherited, you can also develop different types of glaucoma that are called secondary glaucomas caused by other health problems, including:

  • Complications from medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Cataracts
  • Certain eye tumors
  • Inflammation of your eye
  • A reaction to steroids used to treat some diseases
  • Blunt or chemical injury to your eye
  • Severe eye infection
  • Blocked intra-ocular blood vessels
  • Other medically inflammatory conditions

Although glaucoma typically affects both eyes, one can be worse than the other.

What is the first sign of glaucoma?

Most people have no early symptoms or pain before optic nerve damage occurs from excessively high intraocular pressure (IOP), which without treatment, can lead to permanent vision loss or even blindness. In some types of glaucoma, the patient may experience eye pain. But, visual irregularities such as noticing blind spots when looking through the eye, having blurred vision, experiencing tunnel vision, or seeing rainbow halos around brightly lit areas occurs only after the eye pressure has already damaged nerve fibers. Red swollen eyes with headaches, dizziness and nausea may also be indicative of glaucoma. Regular, yearly eye exams by a qualified Ophthalmologist is the only known defense against glaucoma.

Do you think you may have glaucoma? Contact us at (843) 553–2477 and speak with a specialist today!

Woman experiencing strong headaches which can be indicative of glaucoma

Are there different kinds of glaucoma?

Yes. There are many different kinds of glaucoma including:

  • Primary open-angle glaucoma- This is the most common type of glaucoma. In open-angle glaucoma, the aqueous fluid that normally circulates in the front portion of the eye is blocked from flowing out of the eye through a drainage system. This causes the pressure inside the eye to increase, which can damage the optic nerve and lead to vision loss. Most people who develop primary open-angle glaucoma notice no symptoms until their vision is impaired.
  • Angle-closure glaucoma- In angle-closure glaucoma, the iris (the colored part of the eye) may occlude the drainage “angle”, abruptly blocking the flow of aqueous fluid and leading to increased IOP or optic nerve damage. In acute angle-closure glaucoma there is a sudden increase in IOP due to the buildup of aqueous fluid. This condition is considered an emergency because optic nerve damage and vision loss can occur within hours of the problem. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, seeing haloes around light, and eye pain.
  • Normal tension glaucoma- Even people with “normal” IOP can experience vision loss from glaucoma. This condition is called normal tension glaucoma. In this type of glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged even though the IOP is considered normal. Normal tension glaucoma is not well understood, but we do know that lowering IOP has been shown to slow progression of this form of glaucoma.
  • Childhood glaucoma- This kind of glaucoma is rare, and starts in infancy, childhood, or adolescence. Like primary open-angle glaucoma, there are few, if any, symptoms in the early stage. Blindness can result if it is left untreated. Like most types of glaucoma, this type of glaucoma may run in families.
Effects of Glaucoma
Effects of Glaucoma
Stages of Glaucoma
Stages of Glaucoma

Who is at risk for glaucoma?

Anyone can get glaucoma. You may be at greater risk if you have one or more of the following risk factors:

  • Elevated  intraocular pressure;
  • Family history of glaucoma;
  • African American;
  • Advanced age;
  • Certain optic nerve conditions.

How do I know if I have glaucoma?

The only way to be sure you have glaucoma is to be examined by a qualified professional in the field of Ophthalmology.

Jay Thompson, MD examines a patient at Lowcountry Eye Specialists
Jay Thompson, MD examines a patient at Lowcountry Eye Specialists

Can glaucoma go away?

Once diagnosed, glaucoma will not go away. Lifestyle modifications, treatment with the use of prescription medications, laser therapy or surgery if necessary, and regular monitoring by an eye doctor will be needed for the rest of your life in order to prevent blindness.

How fast does glaucoma progress and how long does it take to go blind?

How fast glaucoma progresses and how long it takes to go blind depends upon several factors, including the type of glaucoma and how far it has advanced before diagnosis. In the most common form of glaucoma (primary open-angle glaucoma), damage occurs quite slowly. In other forms of glaucoma (such as primary angle-closure glaucoma), damage can occur more quickly. The sooner a diagnosis is made by a qualified professional, the less likely it will be that blindness will follow for most types of glaucoma.

How can you treat glaucoma?

Glaucoma can be treated with eye drops, laser surgery, traditional surgery or a combination of these methods.

Woman uses eyedrops for glaucoma treatment
  • Eye drops – These are typically the first step in treatment. These drugs work to lower the pressure inside the eye by lowering the amount of aqueous fluid produced and/or improve fluid drainage in the eye. Often people with glaucoma must take these for life to control the pressure and limit vision loss.
  • Laser surgery – When medications do not achieve the desired results, or have intolerable side effects, your ophthalmologist may suggest surgery. Laser surgery has become increasingly popular as an intermediate step between drugs and traditional surgery.
  • Traditional surgery – When medications and laser therapies do not adequately lower eye pressure, your doctor may recommend conventional surgery. Your treatment is up to you and your doctor.

Because many people who develop glaucoma do not notice any symptoms, regular examinations with your ophthalmologist are important if you are at risk for this condition.

How long does glaucoma surgery take?

The length of time it takes to perform glaucoma laser surgery depends upon the form of laser surgery and the surgeon. Laser surgery uses a tiny powerful light beam to drain fluid from the eyes and there are several types of laser surgeries available to control various forms of glaucoma if prescription medications are not keeping the eye pressure low enough. It may also be a first treatment in some cases. Since it is performed in a doctor’s office or outpatient surgery clinic, it does not take long and you should be able to see right after the surgery. However, it will take three to four weeks for the eye pressure to decrease as expected.

Contact us at (843) 553–2477 to speak with a specialist and learn more about your options.