In the United States, glaucoma — known colloquially as “the silent thief of sight” — is the leading cause of preventable blindness among adults 60 years and older. An estimated two-million Americans have some form of glaucoma, yet half of them don’t even know it.

Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, the “cord” that connects your eyes to your brain and enables you to see. This damage is typically the result of elevated eye pressure caused by one of two factors: an overproduction of fluid in the eye or an inability of the eye to drain fluid appropriately.

Glaucoma progresses slowly and, unlike other eye conditions, doesn’t cause pain, redness, or changes in vision until the very late stages of its development, making it easy to miss. Many patients are unaware they have the condition until they begin experiencing a drastic loss of vision.

Fortunately, by attending regular check-ups with a Swagel Wootton Eye Institute eye care expert, you can ensure any potential glaucoma is detected and diagnosed early — before your vision is compromised. And while there’s no cure for the disease, glaucoma that is detected early can be controlled through a variety of treatments, ranging from eye drops to surgery.

The Symptoms of Glaucoma

During the early stages of glaucoma, people rarely experience noticeable symptoms. As the disease progresses, you may start to notice:

  • Mild aching in the eyes
  • Gradual loss of peripheral vision
  • Halos appearing around lights
  • Diminishing visual acuity that is not correctable with glasses (especially at night)

Are You at Risk of Glaucoma?

While everyone should receive a glaucoma check at age 35 and again at age 40, certain individuals are at greater risk of developing the disease, including:

  • Older individuals
  • Individuals with a family history of glaucoma
  • African-Americans
  • Individuals with diabetes
  • Individuals taking steroid medications

Those who fall into these high-risk categories should have their eye pressure checked every one to two years.


An iStent® Micro-Bypass is a highly effective form of glaucoma treatment, especially for those who have been managing their glaucoma with medication but are beginning to develop cataracts. An iStent® is a small implant used to control intraocular pressure that also reduces (or, in some cases, eliminates) a patient’s reliance on hypotensive eye drops. This innovative procedure helps patients manage both cataracts and glaucoma.


Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI) is a laser treatment that widens the narrow angles between the cornea and the iris to increase the flow of fluid within the eye. This enables the eye to regulate intraocular pressure more effectively.


Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is also a laser treatment, however it is only used for patients with open-angle glaucoma. The benefits produced by SLT last anywhere from one to five years, and can be repeated as needed. In certain cases, SLT can eliminate the need for additional glaucoma medication.


Cyclophotocoagulation (CPC, or ECP if performed endoscopically) is a form of laser treatment that eliminates excessive fluid production in the eye. This procedure is typically used when medication and other treatment options have proven ineffective.

Diagnosing Glaucoma

Eye care professionals can diagnose glaucoma in a variety of ways. Which detection method(s) your Swagel Wootton Eye Institute doctor chooses will depend on your unique circumstances. These methods may include:

  • A tonometry procedure to check your eye pressure. During this procedure, numbing eye drops are applied before a tonometer probe is used to measure and record your eye’s resistance and pressure.
  • An ophthalmoscopy to record the shape of your eye and optic nerve. If your optic nerve is cupped or not a vibrant pink color, this may be a sign that you have glaucoma. Your eye doctor will perform additional tests to confirm a diagnosis.
  • A perimetry test to map your current field of vision. During this test, you will look straight ahead into a white, bowl-shaped area and be asked to identify when lights come into view. Identifying which lights you can see and which ones you can’t will help your doctor determine which form of glaucoma you may have: open-angle glaucoma or narrow-angle glaucoma.
  • A gonioscopy eye exam to evaluate your eye’s internal drainage system. This method also helps identify the type of glaucoma that may be present.
  • A nerve fiber layer analysis to evaluate nerve fiber. This test provides your eye doctor with a closer look at the layer of nerve fiber typically damaged by glaucoma.

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