Blythe Monheit, MDGlaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. The symptoms can start so slowly that you may not notice them at first. The only way to find out if you have glaucoma is to get a comprehensive dilated eye exam.

Thankfully, UAB Callahan Eye has an expert team of ophthalmologists who specialize in the detection, prevention, and treatment of glaucoma. We sat down with Blythe Monheit, MD, a glaucoma specialist with more than 15 years of experience, to get the details on glaucoma.

What exactly is glaucoma, what causes it, and who does it affect?
The definition of glaucoma is optic nerve damage related to high pressure inside the eye. Eye pressure is regulated by the drain inside the eye, so most types of glaucoma are caused by a problem with this drain. The drain in the eye can become clogged with debris, crowded with age, damaged by injury, blocked with scar tissue, or fail due to uncontrolled diabetic disease affecting the eyes. Some medications with steroids in them can also cause the drain to become dysfunctional. Glaucoma can affect anyone but is most common in individuals with a family history of glaucoma, those with diabetes, or anyone who has experienced blunt trauma to the eye. 

What are the symptoms?
With chronic glaucoma, most people do not notice any symptoms until their vision becomes poor or they develop blind spots. Acute glaucoma is when pressure inside the eye rises rapidly and can cause pain, headaches, blurry vision, halos around lights, and red eyes. Once glaucoma has negatively affected a patient’s vision, it cannot be reversed. This is why regular eye exams are so important.

Why should a person come to Callahan if they notice these symptoms?
Any eye problem or change in vision should be checked at UAB Callahan Eye, where we provide the full spectrum of eye care in the most sophisticated facility in the Southeast. UAB Callahan Eye has an incredible team of ophthalmologists who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma to provide the best possible care.

How is glaucoma treated?
We have a few options when it comes to preventing and treating glaucoma. We can prescribe eye drops that help regulate eye pressure; perform an outpatient laser treatment to flush the drain of the eye; provide a long-acting injectable medication to the eye drain; or perform operating room surgery if needed.

Is glaucoma preventable, and if so, what can we do to prevent it?
Some types of glaucoma are preventable. Glaucoma due to uncontrolled diabetic retinopathy can be prevented by regular eye exams to screen for and manage the diabetic disease in the eye. Glaucoma due to chronic steroid use can be prevented by awareness and reduction of these medications when possible. Glaucoma due to crowding or blocking of the drain in the eye can be prevented if caught before the drain is permanently closed. Vision damage from glaucoma can best be prevented by catching it early, adhering to treatment, and continuing to see your glaucoma provider on schedule.

Why is it important to get an examination as soon as you start to notice changes in your eyes?
Many causes of vison loss, including glaucoma, cannot be completely reversed. Early detection is the best way to secure a positive prognosis. The earlier we can diagnose and treat a problem, the better we can maintain your vision.

Dr. Monheit is a welcomed addition to our dynamic team of glaucoma experts. She diagnoses and treats glaucoma, as well as sees patients for cataract services, diabetic screenings, and comprehensive care. She provides expert care and vision services for patients at our downtown location, as well as our Pelham and Hoover clinics.