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Glaucoma

At Morganton Eye Physicians we closely monitor and treat patients with glaucoma. We are dedicated to the intervention of glaucoma through medical and surgical services that manage the devastating effects of glaucoma. If you are potentially at risk for glaucoma and have not had an eye examination within a year, please contact Morganton Eye Physicians; we will be happy to schedule you an appointment with our fellowship trained glaucoma specialist William H. Walton, II, MD.

Glaucoma is a sight threatening disease of the optic nerve that affects two to three million Americans. Anyone can develop glaucoma; but, the risk significantly increases with age and is especially detrimental for older people. Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 40. The good news is that vision loss from glaucoma is preventable with early treatment. Eye drops, laser treatments and surgical operations are used to prevent or slow further damage from occurring. However, early detection is critical because the damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible.

A clear fluid called aqueous humor constantly flows within the eye. The primary function of the aqueous humor is to help maintain the shape of the eyeball. This clear fluid flows within the eye through drainage channels. If the drainage channels become blocked the aqueous fluid cannot properly flow within the eye. The result is increased, abnormal eye pressure that can cause damage to the optic nerve. Imagine a sink with constant water flowing from the faucet and into the drain. If the drain becomes clogged, the sink will gradually fill with water pressure and serious problems can occur.

High eye pressure is not glaucoma. A person can have high eye pressure and never develop glaucoma. Glaucoma is the result of high eye pressure that has damaged the optic nerve. The optic nerve is extremely important because it carries the images we see to the brain. Damage from glaucoma can have a catastrophic effect on your vision. The abnormal fluid pressure destroys the optic nerve fibers causing tiny blind spots to appear in the peripheral (side) vision. Sometimes the symptoms of glaucoma are not noticeable until much of the optic nerve is destroyed. Because the pressure in the eye has to be extremely high to cause pain, many patients do not realize they have glaucoma until the disease is in an advanced stage. While damage caused by glaucoma can be medically managed, it is not reversible.

Preventive eye examinations are the best detection of glaucoma. During a preventive comprehensive eye examination, your eye care professional will measure your eye pressure and check the optic nerve for signs of damage and disease. Early detection and treatment is essential in preventing optic nerve damage and blindness.

Important Risk Factors for glaucoma include:

  • A family history of glaucoma
  • Age
  • Past injuries to the eyes
  • African ancestry
  • Asian ancestry

Symptoms of glaucoma can include:

  • Tiny blind spots in the side vision
  • Severe eye pain
  • Headache
  • Rainbow haloes around lights
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision