Glaucoma is a common disease that affects nearly 1% of Americans. It is crucial to seek glaucoma treatment quickly because it is the second-leading cause of total vision loss in the world. Today, our eye health experts at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA are looking at everything you need to know about this condition, including what stages of the disease there are and what the benefits of treatment are. Let’s get started.
What Are the Different Stages of Glaucoma?
During the first stage of glaucoma, the drainage system in your eye changes, leading to an increase in intraocular pressure. During the second stage of this eye disease, you will start noticing symptoms. Individual experiences vary, but most people experience eye pain and blurry vision. Ideally, you should start treating glaucoma while it is in the first stage of development. However, it is not uncommon for the condition to go undiagnosed until the second stage.
By the time the disease has progressed to the third stage, it is considered very advanced. During this stage of development, the pressure inside your eye is very high. If the disease progresses to the fourth stage, the optic nerve becomes damaged. If you don’t get treatment during fourth-stage glaucoma, the disease will progress to the fifth stage, and you will go completely blind.
How Is This Condition Diagnosed?
Glaucoma diagnostic tests are quick and painless. During the diagnostic process, special eye drops will be administered to dilate your pupils so we can get a good look at your eyes. We will determine if there is optic nerve damage, and if damage is present, we will photograph your eyes so we can track changes at your next appointment. We will also perform tonometry, a test designed to measure eye pressure, to help us determine if you have glaucoma.
Depending on your unique case, we also may check your peripheral vision by performing a visual field test. Furthermore, you may need to get a special imaging test to further examine your optic nerve.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing This Condition?
Two of the most common risk factors for developing glaucoma are age and ethnicity. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), generally, you can expect your risk of developing glaucoma to increase when you are over 60 years of age. However, African Americans are at an increased risk of glaucoma at 40 years old. However, it is not just African Americans who are more at risk of glaucoma than Caucasians.
Japanese Americans are at an increased risk of developing low-tension glaucoma. Furthermore, Asian Americans are more likely than Caucasians to develop angle-closure glaucoma. Certain medical conditions can increase the risk of glaucoma significantly, too. For instance, you are more likely to develop glaucoma if you suffer from hypertension, heart disease, or poorly managed diabetes. Other risk factors include:
- Extended corticosteroid use
- Family history of glaucoma
- Thin corneas
- Chronic eye inflammation
- Eye trauma
What Are the Most Common Types of Glaucoma?
The five major types of glaucoma are chronic glaucoma, acute glaucoma, normal tension glaucoma, congenital glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma. According to the NEI, chronic glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. Unfortunately, people with this type of glaucoma often suffer irreversible vision damage because the disease is not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.
Acute glaucoma occurs due to a sudden blockage that impedes the flow of your aqueous humor fluid. Some of the most common symptoms of this condition include extreme pain, blurred vision, and nausea. While most types of glaucoma develop due to age or trauma, children with congenital glaucoma are born with the condition. Some of the most common symptoms are excessive tearing, cloudy eyes, and sensitivity to light.
How Is This Condition Treated?
Glaucoma treatment methods vary depending on several factors, including the type of glaucoma you have and the severity of your disease. If your glaucoma is only in the first or second stage of development, you may only need eye drops designed to improve the flow of your aqueous humor fluid or decrease your eyes’ production of the fluid. However, eye drops may not be right for you depending on your overall health and drug regimen.
If you don’t feel confident that you can stick to an eye drop regimen, a prescription oral medication may be a better fit for you. Generally, a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor or beta-blocker is prescribed. However, you may need several types of oral medications prescribed to manage your condition effectively.
How Else Can This Condition Be Treated?
While early-stage glaucoma can usually be treated effectively with prescription eye drops or oral medications, surgery is sometimes necessary to preserve vision. Some of the most common procedures for the treatment of glaucoma include cyclophotocoagulation, iridotomy, and trabeculoplasty. Trabeculectomy is another procedure that may be necessary.
What Are the Benefits of Glaucoma Treatment?
There are many benefits of glaucoma treatment. One of the most compelling benefits is that it manages your intraocular pressure. Regardless of what stage of glaucoma you have when you start treatment, your vision will be preserved due to this effective pressure management. With the right glaucoma treatment, you can mitigate the risk of further optic nerve damage.
If you start treatment while you are in one of the early stages of the disease, you may not need surgery to treat your condition. Another extremely compelling benefit of getting your glaucoma treated is that it helps to slow down the progression of the disease significantly. Yet another thing to love about treatment for this condition is that it allows you to maintain your quality of life. You can maintain your vision, so you can still work and enjoy your hobbies.
Get in Touch
There are five stages of glaucoma. As the disease begins developing, intraocular pressure increases. If the disease is allowed to progress to the fifth stage, blindness occurs. To find out which glaucoma treatment is right for you, contact us today at Southside Medical Center in Atlanta, GA to schedule a consultation.