What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for connecting the back of the eye (retina) to the brain. Glaucoma is usually caused by an increase in the fluid pressure in the eye – either because of overproduction of fluid or when the drainage system of the eye becomes blocked. The higher pressure inside the eye can cause damage to the optic nerve, resulting in permanent vision loss.
Although there is no medical cure for glaucoma, the condition can be treated and managed to help slow vision loss and preserve your vision. The earlier your condition is diagnosed the more effective treatment will be.
Our glaucoma doctors offer the following glaucoma treatment options to reduce eye pressure:
- Medicated eye drops
- Oral medications
- Selective laser trabeculoplasty
- Drainage tubes (shunts)
- Laser peripheral iridotomy
- Trabeculectomy (filtration surgery)
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Anonymous – Zoc Doc
There are a variety of medicated eye drops that can be prescribed to decrease eye pressure. Your doctor may prescribe drops that increase the outflow of fluid, reduce the production of fluid or drops that achieve both.
Oral medication can be a stand-alone option or supplement the medicated eye drops. A commonly prescribed medication is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty
Laser energy is used to clear blocked channels in the trabecular meshwork. Specific cells are treated during the process. The results are not instant; it may take 1-3 months for eye pressure to lower.
Drainage Tubes (Shunts)
A flexible tube is inserted into the drainage area of the eye to promote fluid escape. This is typically done after other methods of treatment have been explored.
Laser Peripheral Iridotomy
A laser is used to create a small hole on the outer edge of the iris for fluid release. This can be used as a preventative measure for people with narrow drainage areas in the eye or to treat existing glaucoma.
Trabeculectomy (Filtration Surgery)
This is also called conventional glaucoma surgery. A small hole is made in the white of the eye to create a new drainage flap for fluid to drain through at a desired rate.
The right treatment(s) for your eyes will depend on the type of glaucoma you have, the severity of your condition and your overall eye health. If you have glaucoma you will need to be regularly monitored to ensure that your treatment is working. By keeping your eye pressure within a normal range for your unique eyes, we may be able to protect your optic nerve from further damage.
Types of Glaucoma
- Open-angle glaucoma (most common): fluid builds up in the eye due to a blockage in the trabecular meshwork which leads to elevated eye pressure.
- Angle-closure glaucoma: the iris blocks part of the angle of the eye so fluid cannot drain properly. This leads to a sudden increase in eye pressure and is a medical emergency.
- Congenital glaucoma: present at birth, the angle of the eye does not allow for proper drainage of fluid.
- Secondary glaucoma: this develops as a complication of another eye surgery, injury, disease or other eye conditions.
Risk Factors for Glaucoma
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. It is estimated that over 3 million Americans have glaucoma but only half are aware of the condition. Although glaucoma can occur at any age, the risk of developing glaucoma increases dramatically after age 60. Other risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Family history of glaucoma
- Presence of diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure
- Trauma to the eye
- Certain eye conditions (thin corneas, retinal detachment, etc.)
- Race (African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Alaskans and Japanese are at higher risk)
- Naturally high intraocular pressure
To learn more about the glaucoma treatment options available, contact us today to schedule an eye exam.