2440 Ravine Way, Suites 500-600
Glenview, IL 60025

Phone: 847.724.9400

Glaucoma

WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerves, causing loss of vision. Each optic nerve is made up of about 1 million nerve fibers that carry information from the eye to the brain, allowing us to see images. There are two main types of glaucoma. 

The first and most common type is chronic open-angle glaucoma, which is painless and slowly progressive. Early on, the nerves are damaged in a pattern that causes blind spots in peripheral vision. This often goes un-noticed by the patient until more advanced disease affects central vision. At this point, it may become dangerous to drive. Although a patient may see the car in front of him, he may have trouble detecting a child running toward the street because of the loss of peripheral vision. This insidious disease is problematic because the damage caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed. It is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States and can be prevented with screening by Dr. Cunningham, as well as early treatment if needed. 

The second type which is less common is closed-angle glaucoma. This glaucoma can be an emergency due to a rapid rise in pressure inside the eye which can also cause permanent vision loss. Symptoms of an acute attack of angle-closure include eye pain, blurry vision, nausea, and vomiting. In this acute setting an immediate trip to the emergency room or to your doctor's office is a must. 

WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR GLAUCOMA?

While elevated pressure in the eye is one risk factor for glaucoma, there are many others. These include increasing age, family history, race, past eye trauma, thin central corneas, and near-sightedness. Many systemic disease including diabetes, hypertension, migraines, and poor circulation also may play a role. 

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE GLAUCOMA?

Routine screening eye exams are the best way to detect glaucoma. It is important to understand that the most common type of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma, has no symptoms until the disease is advanced. It is a painless and insidious disease that permanently takes vision away, starting in the periphery. Because over half of the nerve fibers can die before we detect a change in your vision, we look closely at the appearance of the optic nerve with serial photographs and with the use of the Heidelberg HRT-2 scanning laser tomography system. This state of the art technology allows us to view a 3-D image of the optic nerve. Computer analysis of your nerve helps us to detect glaucoma in its earliest stage as well as follow disease progression. We use all of this information combined with your other risk factors to determine whether treatment should be started, and which treatment is most appropriate for you. 

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR GLAUCOMA?

Treatment for glaucoma is aimed at lowering the pressure inside the eye in order to prevent further vision loss. There is no cure for glaucoma and no treatment that will restore vision once it is lost, therefore early detection is important to prevent you from losing the precious vision that you have. 

In open angle glaucoma, pressure can be reduced by various methods including eye-drops, laser procedures, and surgery in the operating room. Some patients achieve adequate reductions in their intraocular pressure with eye-drops, and some prefer a laser treatment called SLT. SLT stands for selective laser trabeculoplasty. It is a painless procedure that is done in the office to help reduce pressure in the eye. Many patients take eye-drops and also have a laser treatment. Few patients undergo surgery. All methods are very successful in reducing pressure in the eye, and thus preventing further vision loss. 

In closed angle glaucoma, treatment may initially be eye-drops, followed by a laser procedure called a peripheral iridotomy. This laser creates a small hole in the iris, the colored part of the eye, so that high pressure will not build up inside the eye. This hole is NOT a connection to the outside of the eye. 

CAN MY GLAUCOMA BE CURED?

There is no cure for glaucoma, and unfortunately no medicine or surgery to restore lost vision. Only a complete eye exam will detect glaucoma early enough to start treatment and prevent further vision loss.