Jason M. Yonker, M.D., FACSDr. Jason Yonker

Fellowship Trained Glaucoma Specialist!

What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a slowly progressive eye disease that damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries visual messages from the eye to the brain. Untreated, glaucoma can permanently damage the nerve leading to reduced vision or even blindness.

What is the cause of Glaucoma?
The exact cause of the optic nerve damage in glaucoma is unknown. Many different factors may be involved. For many, elevated eye pressure seems to play an important role. The eye constantly produces a watery fluid called aqueous humor. It bathes the inner parts of the eye and then drains away. When your eye is healthy, the fluid drains through a mesh-like pathway and into the bloodstream. Sometimes the fluid doesn’t drain properly so pressure inside the eye increases. For some people, the optic nerve cannot withstand the pressure. Over time too much pressure may injure the nerve’s cells. Slowly the optic nerve’s cells begin to die, and vision eventually suffers. Other factors that may play a role include:

  • Those who are over 40 years of age
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • People who are very nearsighted
  • Prolonged period of steriod use
  • People of African or Afro-Carribbean heritage are 4-5 times more likely to develop glaucoma
  • People with diabetes
  • Those who have had eye surgery or eye injuries

What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is called the sneak thief of sight because it often has no noticeable symptoms until a significant amount of vision has already been lost. Glaucoma symptoms can show up as:

  • Frequent changes of eyeglass prescriptions, none of which are satisfactory
  • Loss of vision
  • Rainbow-colored rings (halos) around lights
  • Difficulty adjusting your eyes in darkened rooms, such as movie theaters
  • Blurred or foggy vision

What can you do?
If glaucoma is discovered early, medical treatment usually keeps it from worsening. However, sight destroyed by glaucoma cannot be restored. That’s why the best defense against glaucoma is an eye examination through a dilated pupil at least once every two years for people over 40 years old or more often for those at high risk. For many people, prescribed eye drops are enough to reduce eye pressure and prevent further loss of vision. If eye drops or other drugs are prescribed, they often must be used for life. Laser surgery or other forms of glaucoma surgery, such as filtration or drainage implant may be necessary. Learn about your family’s history of eye problems and be sure to get a comprehensive eye examination. Remember, if glaucoma is found early, it can be treated, and you may be saved from a significant loss of sight.