January 2021 is Glaucoma Awareness Month. In addition to raising awareness about an eye disease that affects over two million Americans, Glaucoma Awareness Month is also about educating the public about what glaucoma is and steps they can take to protect their vision health from the damaging effects of the disease. Today, we’re going to highlight some frequently asked questions about a particular type of glaucoma: normal-tension glaucoma.
What is Normal-Tension Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition that can result from damage to the optic nerve. Symptoms include gradual vision loss. Left untreated, glaucoma can result in total blindness.
In many types of glaucoma, such as open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma, this damage is caused by increases in the intraocular pressure (IOP) of the fluid within the eye. However, this is not the case with normal-tension glaucoma, also known as low tension or normal-pressure glaucoma, which can happen even when the IOP doesn’t exceed the normal pressure range (between 12-22 mm Hg).
What Are the Causes of Normal-Tension Glaucoma?
We still don’t know the exact causes of normal-tension glaucoma. It may be that some people’s optic nerves are so delicate or hypersensitive that even normal levels of IOP can cause damage. Abnormally low blood pressure or poor blood flow to the eye due to atherosclerosis may also be to blame.
Who is Most Likely to Develop Normal-Tension Glaucoma?
While no one knows what causes normal-tension glaucoma, if you are:
- Over the age of 40;
- Have a family history of normal-tension glaucoma;
- Are a person of Japanese descent; or
- Have a history of heart disease
You may be at greater risk of developing normal-tension glaucoma.
What are the Symptoms of Normal-Tension Glaucoma?
Normal-tension glaucoma tends to progress slower than other types of glaucoma. Loss of your peripheral, or side, vision is often one of the first signs of normal-tension glaucoma. As the condition advances, vision gets worse. The field of vision narrows until you seem to be looking at the world through a tunnel. If left untreated, the optic nerve’s damage can be so severe as to result in total blindness.
What are the Treatment Options for Normal-Tension Glaucoma?
When you go in for a comprehensive eye exam, the eye doctor will perform a glaucoma screen to measure the pressure in your eye and look for any damage to the optic nerve. Some of the tests included in the glaucoma screen include:
- Dilated eye exam – Drops are placed in the eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Once the pupil is fully dilated, a special magnifying lens will be used to examine your optic nerve and retina for signs of damage and other problems.
- Visual acuity test – Determines how well you see at various distances.
- Visual field test – measures your peripheral vision.
- Tonometry – measures the pressure inside the eye.
- Pachymetry – An ultrasonic scanning technique used to measure the thickness of the cornea.
- Imaging – If you’ve already been diagnosed with normal-tension glaucoma, photographs, and imaging scans of the optic nerves can help track the progression of the disease.
While there is currently no cure for normal-tension glaucoma, there are many options for treating and managing the disease that can reduce or prevent the damage caused to your vision. In many situations, medication, usually in the form of eye drops, provides an effective way to control the progress of the disease. Advanced surgical procedures, including laser treatments, may be necessary in more severe cases.
Berkeley Eye Center Houston Glaucoma Specialists
If it’s been a while since you had a comprehensive eye exam, now’s the time to call the Berkeley Eye Center. Early diagnosis and treatment are the most effective ways to reduce the risk of vision loss and damage. The Houston glaucoma specialists at Berkeley Eye Center provide the latest and most effective medical, laser, and surgical glaucoma treatment options. We’ve been helping Houstonians minimize the effects of their glaucoma for over 60 years.
With locations all around Houston and surrounding communities, including Katy, The Woodlands, Pearland, Bay City, Brenham, Clear Lake, El Campo, Sugar Land, Tomball, and Wharton, there’s sure to be a Berkeley Eye Center near you.