Glaucoma is a potentially blinding condition. Approximately 2% of the population of the United States has glaucoma. Many remain undiagnosed. The mainstay of treatment has always been topical medication in the form of eye drops. However, at times this is unsuccessful. Other alternatives include laser treatments and glaucoma filtering surgery. Schuster Eye Center has performed glaucoma surgery on hundreds of patients successfully over the last thirty years. Newer glaucoma procedures including drainage implant procedures have been performed for ten years. The latest diagnostic tools to follow glaucoma such as digital photography of the optic nerve and sophisticated measurements of the visual field are always utilized.
Nothing is more precious than your eyesight. As you look at the world around you think of how valuable your vision is. Now think how your world would be if you were losing your eyesight to a silent disease called glaucoma. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that gradually steals your sight without warning and often without symptoms. Every year, millions of people around the world develop glaucoma and each day without treatment can bring them one step closer to blindness.
Glaucoma is a disease that gradually steals sight without symptoms, pain, or warning. Typically characterized by high pressure within the eye, glaucoma can also occur in some cases with normal or low pressure in the eye. The eye is divided into two chambers, the anterior chamber, or the front compartment of the eye; and the posterior chamber, or the back compartment of the eye. In a normal, healthy eye, clear liquid, called the "aqueous humor," circulates continuously from the posterior chamber, through the pupil and into the anterior chamber. Produced by the ciliary body, this fluid cleans and nourishes the inside of the eye. The aqueous humor then leaves the eye through an opening in the trabecular meshwork. In an eye that has glaucoma; more fluid is produced than can be removed by the eye, which means the fluid builds up. This built-up fluid increases pressure in the anterior chamber of the eye. The increasing pressure in the anterior chamber eventually transfers to the rest of the eye. The optic nerve, the weakest area of the eye, is most vulnerable to damage from this elevated pressure. Continuous elevated pressure on the optic nerve will eventually damage the neural tissue that makes up the millions of nerve fibers that send visual impulses to the brain. Thinning and eventual destruction of neural tissue will cause changes in the appearance of the optic nerve. These changes are typically referred to as "cupping". It is this damage to the optic nerve that prevents light from getting to the brain. If light signals cannot reach the brain due to severe damage, a person can go blind.
The optic nerve is the structure in the back your eye that carries images to your brain. A healthy optic nerve is necessary for good vision. The function of the optic nerve can be compared to an electrical socket. When electrical impulses reach your home, they are channeled through an electrical socket, along wires, and into your computer. For the computer to work properly it is important that these impulses travel from the source to the computer without any disruption. If any damage occurs to the socket, then the impulses cannot reach the computer and it will not work. Your eye works in much the same way. When light focuses in your eye on the retina, it is converted into impulses that are carried along millions of nerve fibers that bind together to make up your optic nerve. Your optic nerve is then responsible for carrying these signals to the vision center of your brain. Once these impulses reach your brain, they are then processed into the "pictures" you see. If your optic nerve is damaged severely enough to affect the transfer of these impulses, then your brain cannot fully interpret the image. As damage to your optic nerve increases over the years, the entire optic nerve is destroyed, and you can go blind.