Glaucoma, a group of related eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, is the second-leading cause of blindness in the United States. Because glaucoma, which can have devastating consequences, has no obvious signs or symptoms until it’s caused significant vision loss, it’s important to have regular eye exams. At Optik Birmingham in Birmingham, Michigan, Joe Ales, OD provides comprehensive glaucoma evaluations and targeted treatment solutions for men and women in the Metro Detroit region. To learn more, call the office or schedule an appointment online today.

Glaucoma Q&A

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma isn’t just a single eye disease, but rather a group of related eye conditions that share a common underlying cause: elevated intraocular pressure, or high pressure within your eye. It usually begins when a buildup of fluid in the front part of your eye leads to increased pressure inside your eye. Left undetected and untreated, this continuous intraocular pressure causes irreversible optic nerve damage.

Your optic nerve is made up of about 1 million individual nerve fibers that transmit visual signals from your eye to your brain. Increased pressure within your eye slowly destroys individual nerve fibers, leading to progressive damage and gradual vision loss. Glaucoma progression is often so gradual that the disease is sometimes referred to as the “silent thief of sight.”

What is the most common type of glaucoma?

Although there are several types of glaucoma, including angle-closure glaucoma, low-tension glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma, the most common form of the disease by far is open-angle glaucoma.

With open-angle glaucoma, optic nerve damage is slow and painless. In fact, people affected by this form of the disease often lose a significant degree of vision before they even notice they’re having eyesight problems.

What are the risk factors for glaucoma?

Although anyone can develop glaucoma, people with a family history of the disease and adults past the age of 60 have the greatest risk. For African Americans, however, the risk of developing glaucoma begins much earlier, starting at the age of 40.

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

Dr. Ales evaluates your eyes for signs of glaucoma during a comprehensive eye exam. Having poor visual acuity or a measurable loss of peripheral vision can indicate an underlying problem with your optic nerve. Dr. Ales may also measure the thickness of your corneas with a pachymetry test, as people with thinner corneas are more likely to develop glaucoma.

During the dilated portion of an eye exam, Dr. Ales uses drops to widen your pupils so he can better examine the back of each eye to look for signs of damage to your retina or optic nerve.

Although most optometrists use a standard tonometry test — also known as the “air puff” test — to measure the amount of pressure inside your eyes, Dr. Ales uses a much less invasive diagnostic imaging test that can actually detect glaucoma in its earliest stages.

The optical coherence tomography (OCT) scan uses light waves to capture incredibly detailed three-dimensional images of your retina and optic nerve. These high-resolution images give Dr. Ales a way to detect the early onset of a variety of eye diseases, including glaucoma.

Not all eye care providers have this OCT technology, but Dr. Ales proudly offers it, saving you time and money by perhaps giving him results he might otherwise need to get by sending you to a specialist.

While glaucoma can’t be cured, treatment can keep it from progressing and help prevent further vision loss. To learn more about glaucoma or schedule your next comprehensive eye exam, call Optik Birmingham or schedule an appointment online today.