Glaucoma remains one of the leading causes of blindness mainly because it is so common and, unfortunately, painless. There are typically no symptoms that would warn someone that they are developing glaucoma until it had already caused much damage. Glaucoma results in loss of vision by harm to the optic nerve at the back of the eye due to the build up of excessive water pressure inside the eye. This is almost like putting too much air into a balloon and making it pop. While the eye will not rupture, the pressure will stretch and bow the optic nerve outward like an inner tube being pushed out through the tire wall. This misshape is referred to a "cupping" and can be one of the earliest signs that can be detected by eye examination to suspect that glaucoma had started. Glaucoma is usually treated with eye drops, laser treatments, or surgery. The newest trend is towards usually eye drops with less chemical preservatives such as Zioptan®, Preservative-free Timolol®, or Preservative-free Cosopt®. These medications are thought to be gentler to the ocular surface and are helpful in those with sensitivities to preservatives. Regularly scheduled comprehensive eye examinations are the best way to be monitored for glaucoma, particularly for those with any of the underlying major risk factors which include diabetes mellitus, hypertension, aging, or family history of glaucoma.
Mark A. Pavilack, M.D.
Cornea, LASIK, and Cataract Surgery Specialist