What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of neurological disorders that cause damage to the optic nerve, the nerve responsible for transmitting light signals from our eyes to our brains and allowing vision. Damage to the optic nerve from glaucoma results in visual field loss and can lead to irreversible blindness if left untreated. Glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness in the world, second after cataracts. It’s extremely important to understand that damage from glaucoma can often be prevented if the illness is detected and treated early on. Once glaucoma causes visual field loss, that damage is usually irreversible and if left untreated, can lead to blindness.

  • Types of Glaucoma

There are many types of glaucoma. The most common form in the United States is Open Angle Glaucoma.  This type of glaucoma can develop slowly over years and is usually painless, affects the general population and increases in prevalence with age. Specialized testing is required to catch it early – this is why routine eye exams by the specialist are vital to your health and sight.

Other forms of Glaucoma include Closed Angle, Normal Tension, and Neo-vascular Glaucoma, as well as more rare forms such as Pseudoexfoliation, Uveitic, and Traumatic Glaucoma. Each of these different types of glaucoma should be treated in a manner specific for that illness, the stage of the illness, and the factors affecting the patient’s life. Call (619) 501-9050 to set up a consultation with a specialist in our offices in downtown San Diego.

  • Risk Factors for Glaucoma

There are many risk factors for glaucoma. Some of the more common risk factors include age, elevated pressure in the eye, family history of glaucoma, low central corneal thickness, trauma to the eye, and history of uveitis (inflammation), among others. Your risk factors for glaucoma increase if you are over the age of 60.

When we check eye pressure, a normal result is between 10 and 21 mmHg (individualized pressures are used to cater therapy for each patient). In patients with glaucoma, the pressure can be higher than 21 mmHg (depending on the type of glaucoma). Elevated blood pressure can lead to even higher eye pressure, which poses an even greater risk to vision. (Please note that optic nerve damage and vision loss can occur in patients with normal eye pressure in what’s known as normal-tension glaucoma.)

  • Symptoms of Glaucoma

Glaucoma symptoms can start with painless blurry vision and peripheral vision loss, followed by loss of central vision (objects/people directly in-front of us).  This loss of vision is usually irreversible and can lead to blindness if not treated.

In Closed-angle Glaucoma, symptoms can come on suddenly. This can include severe eye pain, blurred vision, eye redness, and nausea and/or vomiting.

  • Glaucoma Screening

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends glaucoma screening starting at age 40. If you have any risk factors for glaucoma (as we discussed above), you should have a dilated eye exam at least once a year, preferably by a specialist that can detect the early signs of glaucoma. Your initial diagnosis and treatment may come from your optometrist, who will refer you to an ophthalmologist – a medical doctor and surgeon who specializes in disorders of the eye. Call (619) 501-9050 to set up a consultation with a specialist in our offices in downtown San Diego.

  • Testing for Glaucoma

Some ophthalmologists specialize in the treatment of glaucoma. The best and brightest of the ophthalmologists undergo additional fellowship training in Glaucoma from accredited universites. These glaucoma specialists have tests and equipment that can screen for, detect, and treat glaucoma. You may hear your doctor refer to some of these tests, such as Tonometry, Perimetry, Gonioscopy, Pachymetry, Nerve fiber analysis, and Macular Ganglion Cell Analysis, among others.

Testing for glaucoma normally may not include a dilated exam, so he/she can still do a thorough anterior segment exam from of your eyes.

  • Treatment for Glaucoma

Treatment for glaucoma can take many forms, depending on the type and severity of the illness. We always take into account the factors affecting a patient’s life. Your Glaucoma Specialist will recommend a course of treatment based on the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, and tailor it to your needs. The three main types of treatment are eye drops, laser treatment, and glaucoma surgery. Your Glaucoma Specialist will let you know which treatment is right for you.

At Vision Specialists of California, it is our duty to fully evaluate and treat your eyes according to the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. We treat you with the time and respect you deserve as not just another patient, but as a valued member of our community. Call (619) 501-9050 to set up a consultation with a specialist in our offices at downtown San Diego.


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