Glaucoma: What the average person should know and why

Glaucoma: What the average person should know and why
Dr. Tina N. Tillis Ophthalmologist Jacksonville, FL

Dr. Tina N. Tillis is a top Ophthalmologist in Jacksonville, . With a passion for the field and an unwavering commitment to their specialty, Dr. Tina N. Tillis is an expert in changing the lives of their patients for the better. Through their designated cause and expertise in the field, Dr. Tina N. Tillis is a prime example... more

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in America yet the average person rarely thinks about it or understands what it is. Even scientists still struggling to define what it is and what causes it. What is known is that the end result is loss of vision or blindness.  It is rarely detected early without a thorough eye exam because it is usually a quiet disease. If it goes undetected and untreated it can cause complete blindness.   

What is glaucoma? In the past it was described as elevated pressure in the eye that causes damage to the optic nerve resulting in loss of vision. There are, however, exceptions to this definition. For example, there are people who have low pressures that still meet the criteria to be diagnosed as having glaucoma. There are also people who have elevated pressures but have no other exam findings consistent with the diagnosis of glaucoma. Regardless of whether the pressures are high, low or normal, the common denominator is optic nerve damage. The optic nerve is the main connection of the eye to the brain. I liken it to a cord to a lamp. That cord is made of several little wires that are combined to create a solid cord. If you lose a few wires no real problem but if you lose too many it will begin to affect the connection. Eventually there is not enough of a connection to allow the flow of electricity and therefore there is a loss of light. The optic nerve is similar. It is made of several fibers that correspond to spots of vision.  If enough of these fibers are damaged it affects the flow of information from the eye to the brain and can cause blindness.   

There is no cure but there is control. Screening for glaucoma includes measurement of the vision and the eye pressure. Additional evaluation of the optic nerve is done by the physician’s direct observation. Technology now allows a more objective evaluation of the optic nerve for damage. The peripheral vision is usually the first part of the vision affected by glaucoma. A Visual Field test is necessary to assess early loss. Treatment can help control the eye pressures and prevent loss of vision. Treatment options consist of medicinal eye drops, laser treatments and actual surgery.