What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the name for a set of conditions that can damage the optic nerve, which is in control of sending visual impulses to the brain. When not treated early enough, glaucoma will typically cause permanent blind spots and/or complete blindness. It is virtually always caused by high pressure within the eye from a build-up of fluid.
Glaucoma mainly occurs in individuals over the age of 60. Today, approximately two million individuals in the U.S. alone have glaucoma, though many of them don't even know it. In the beginning stages, glaucoma doesn't have any glaring symptoms and is frequently known as the “silent thief." Even though science hasn't developed a cure for the condition, it may be controlled through early diagnosis and the appropriate treatments.
Glaucoma is a primary reason why scheduling comprehensive eye exams a minimum of every two years is vital to your overall eye health. At Wicker Park Eye Center, board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Daniel Tepper and his experienced team have the most up-to-date diagnostic technologies and are extensively knowledgeable about the most innovative management approaches. If you are over 40 years old, visit us at our Chicago, IL facility to plan your exam and get in control of managing your ocular health.
What Are The Symptoms Of Glaucoma?
Many glaucoma symptoms don't become apparent to the sufferer until permanent damage has occurred, which is why regular eye exams at Wicker Park Eye Center in Chicago, IL are so important. Symptoms of glaucoma can include:
- High intraocular pressure – Most forms of glaucoma cause higher than normal intraocular pressure (IOP), which can damage the optic nerve. If you have high eye pressure, you are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma and should regularly attend eye exams.
- Loss of peripheral vision – The most common form of the condition is open-angle glaucoma (also known as primary open-angle glaucoma), and it often presents no obvious symptoms until the disease has progressed. Over time, open-angle glaucoma causes irreversible blind spots in your peripheral vision.
- Sudden vision changes – Acute angle-closure glaucoma, in contrast, occurs suddenly. Patients suffering from angle-closure glaucoma may experience intense eye pain, headaches, blurry vision, halos around lights, nausea, or vomiting.
What Are The Causes Of Glaucoma?
All cases of glaucoma are due to damage to the optic nerve. Almost always, this injury is due to too much intraocular pressure from fluid buildup. In normally functioning eyes, the fluid essential to the eye tissue can easily drain to different areas via a special tissue, the trabecular meshwork, that sits between the cornea and the iris. In some patients, this flow is obstructed or significantly slowed, which results in built-up fluid.
The most well-known kinds of glaucoma are categorized based on the functional capacity of the trabecular meshwork and the narrowness of the space between the cornea and iris. If the fluid buildup is due to a malfunction within the trabecular meshwork, it is referred to as open-angle glaucoma. In contrast, if the retention is occurring due to the drainage pathway between the iris and cornea being too small or obstructed, this is known as narrow- or closed-angle glaucoma. Scientific studies have indicated that glaucoma caused by intraocular pressure can be inherited. Other than genes and age, additional factors that can elevate internal eye pressure include extended use of corticosteroid eye drops, extra thin corneal tissue, being of certain ethnic descent, and having certain health conditions, such as diabetes. However, glaucoma can be the result of conditions besides eye pressure. In these cases, it is known as secondary glaucoma because it is a byproduct of a separate, pre-existing condition.
"I first saw Dr. Tepper over six years ago, after relocating from California. That’s where I discovered I had glaucoma in both eyes. I also have a thin cornea, so my eye pressure has to be a bit below "normal" to preserve my vision.The first ophthalmologist I saw in Chicago didn’t specialize in glaucoma. (Something his office failed to tell me when I made the appointment.) Turns out that was for the best. He referred me to Dr. Tepper and Dr.T. is fantastic!In Cali, I had been prescribed two very strong (and very expensive) drugs to keep my eye pressure from destroying my optic nerve and blinding me. Even so, Dr. Tepper told me right away that he thought I had been medicated too aggressively given my age and overall health (54 at the time). He asked me if I would consider alternate medications that are not as caustic.I went for it and he monitored the results. The bottom line is that my eye pressure remained under control just as well as it did with my previous "designer" meds! Also 10X cheaper! No exaggeration. The cost went from $300.00/Mo to $30.00/Mo.Because of Dr. Tepper, I was able to get off of two separate corporate drug assistance programs (which are bureaucratic nightmares) and just pay out of pocket. This really simplified my life. More than that, I’m getting first rate medical care. One visit I wondered out loud if my blood pressure was too high and Dr. T took a reading on the spot. I never had an ophthalmologist take my BP before! Dr. Tepper factors in all aspects of my health and fitness. He is not a shill for big pharma like a lot of doctors. He stresses a healthy lifestyle instead of solely relying on meds alone. He also shares info about leading edge treatments, studies and breakthroughs relevant to my condition. His practice is busy, but Dr. Tepper never makes me feel like he is in a hurry to see another patient. He is extremely personable and sincere. Because of this and his expertise, I referred my mom (age 95) to Dr. T. She is super picky about doctors and SHE chose Dr. Tepper for cataract surgery. That says it all!"- R.M. / Yelp / Aug 24, 2018
"Five Stars - Very patient. Answered all my questions. Fantasic vision with new eyeglasses. Friendly staff. Explained glaucoma and cataracts in ways I could easily understand. Would recommend his office to anyone!"- Anonymous / Vitals / Aug 15, 2009
"Dr. Tepper took me of glaucoma meds that my previous doctor prescribed to me. He effectively controlled my eye pressure with meds that were much less caustic and much less expensive. Dr. Tepper is very through and attentive. He is also just a sincerely good person. Highly recommend him."- R. / Healthgrades / Jan 21, 2020
"Been seeing Dr. Tepper for a decade. I have glaucoma in both eyes. Highly recommended!"- Anonymous / Healthgrades / Mar 18, 2022
Am I at risk of developing Glaucoma?
Genetics Play A Large Role
While anyone can develop glaucoma, this condition is 3– 4 times more likely to affect African Americans and Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites. This disease is also more common in patients over the age of 40.
Other factors that can increase your chance of developing glaucoma include:
- A family history of the condition
- Near- or farsightedness
- Thin corneas
- Previous eye trauma
- Poor blood circulation
How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Dr. Tepper uses multiple required tests to learn whether a patient has glaucoma. All of the tests are completely comfortable, relatively easy, and fast. First, he will dilate the pupils and possibly numb the eyes with no-sting eye drops. Once the eye drops take effect, Dr. Tepper will start doing the tests. Most of the time, these will include gauging the intraocular pressure (tonometry) and how thick the cornea is (pachymetry), checking the width of the space between the cornea and iris (gonioscopy), examining and recording the appearance of the optic nerve, checking the patient’s scope of outer (as opposed to central) vision, and testing for any spots of vision loss.
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
If a glaucoma diagnosis is made, there are numerous treatments patients can use to help control the condition. All of these glaucoma treatments focus on easing intraocular pressure to stop further harm to the optical nerve. A great number of patients who are in the first stages of glaucoma are often able to curb or interrupt their vision loss by managing glaucoma with specialized eye drops and nutritional changes.
For individuals whose glaucoma has progressed further, more involved glaucoma treatments, like stents, laser therapies, and trabeculectomies, have the potential to ease the condition quite a bit. Whether we provide these treatments or decide to refer our glaucoma patients to a specialist, Dr. Tepper and his team are devoted to determining the ideal solutions for their patients' personalized eye health requirements. Wicker Park Eye Center offers customizable glaucoma treatment options, including:
- Eye Drops: Typically, medicated eye drops are the first treatment option for less urgent forms of glaucoma. Depending on your needs, we may recommend a drop that reduces fluid production or one that improves the drainage process.
- iStent®: The iStent is placed during a minimally invasive surgery to help those with either angle-closure glaucoma or open-angle glaucoma (sometimes called primary open-angle glaucoma). We place two tiny devices into the trabecular meshwork, which is the tissue responsible for draining aqueous humor from your eye. This procedure can allow fluid to drain properly so you can maintain proper IOP.
- SLT: Selective laser trabeculoplasty also helps fluid drain from your eye. After your eyes are numbed, a specialized laser opens the meshwork during this surgery to improve the flow of fluid.
- Nutritional Options: When used alongside other treatments, a healthy diet can promote eye health. We can recommend types of foods, such as leafy greens and fish, that can help protect your vision.
Early glaucoma treatment can reduce the risk of blindness.
Treatment innovations have lowered the probability of glaucoma-related blindness by half since 1980.
*According to a study published in 2011
At Wicker Park Eye Center, we are equipped to help you control glaucoma and protect your vision.
What are the most common signs of glaucoma?
For many patients, glaucoma may present no symptoms and often go undiagnosed. But some of the most common signs of glaucoma include:
- Pulsing eye pain
- Redness in the eye
- Blurry vision
- Halos around lights
- Dilated pupils
- Nausea and vomiting
Can you go blind from glaucoma?
While you can go blind from glaucoma, with today's modern treatments like MIGS surgery, trabeculectomy, and medications, blindness caused by glaucoma is very rare.
Is there a cure for glaucoma?
There currently is no cure for glaucoma. However, with early detection and treatment, the progression of glaucoma can be greatly slowed to help preserve eye health and healthy vision.
Take Control Of Your Glaucoma
At Wicker Park Eye Center, we often see people living with glaucoma to help guide them through managing the disease and protecting their eye health. It’s soothing to know that receiving a diagnosis and treatment in the initial stages can allow you to keep your glaucoma under control and prolong the health of your eyesight. Dr. Tepper urges anybody who has possible symptoms of glaucoma, a family history of glaucoma, or an existing diagnosis of glaucoma to plan an exam at his Chicago, IL practice.