Perhaps you’ve heard that glaucoma occurs when pressure increases in your eye, which can lead to a permanent loss of vision. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with glaucoma, you may wonder how eye pressure damages the eye. You may also wonder what the value “should” be. This blog will help you answer these questions. You can also learn more at Horizon’s Glaucoma page.)
Why Does Eye Pressure Matter in Glaucoma?
Imagine a TV plugged into the wall by a power cord. If you cut or damage the power cord, the screen goes black. That’s exactly what happens in glaucoma. Each eye has an optic nerve, which is the “power cord” that connects the eye to the brain. The optic nerve can be damaged by many things. In glaucoma, the optic nerve gets damaged because of eye pressure that is too high for the eye. Usually, damage from eye pressure (glaucoma) happens very slowly and without any symptoms that patients would notice until significant vision has been lost.
What is the Goal of Glaucoma Treatment?
Since high eye pressure is the problem, the goal of treatment is to lower the value to a safe level. The normal range is around 10 to 21 millimeters of mercury. About half of all patients who develop glaucoma never have a “high” eye pressure reading. In those patients, even a “normal” eye pressure needs to be lowered further.
This “safe” level, often called the “target pressure” or “goal pressure” by glaucoma specialists, is individualized for every eye, meaning that the “safe level” can be different even between the two eyes of the same patient.
Ophthalmologists around the world have conducted many large clinical research trials to study glaucoma. In this process, we have learned that lowering the pressure by 20 to 30 percent is usually a good starting point for most glaucoma patients. To know where to begin, we need to know what the “baseline” or usual eye pressure is for every patient. Eye pressure, like blood pressure, varies throughout the day – sometimes by several points. So, patients may need to come in more than once before starting or changing treatment.
Monitoring is Vital
Your target pressure can change. If we notice your glaucoma is worsening even after you’ve met your initial goal pressure, we may lower your target pressure further to keep you safe. On the other hand, if your glaucoma remains extremely stable for years, we may be able to raise the target pressure and perhaps reduce your medications.
Treatments for glaucoma include prescription eye drops, lasers, and/or surgeries. How do you know if your treatment is working to keep your glaucoma from worsening? Glaucoma worsening usually has no symptoms, and it can’t be cured or reversed. Since there are no symptoms, the only way to know if it is worsening is to come to your appointments.
Fellowship-trained glaucoma experts such as those at Horizon Eye Care will speak with you, monitor your eye pressure, look directly at your optic nerve, perform scans of your optic nerve, and perform visual field tests to make sure your disease is under control.
To schedule a consultation at Horizon Eye Care, call 704-365-0555 Monday-Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The optical department closes on Fridays at 2:30 p.m.