What is Glaucoma?
Over two million Americans are affected with glaucoma, and nearly half aren’t aware they have the disease. It’s commonly referred to as the “silent thief of sight” because you’ll feel virtually no symptoms until the disease is very advanced. Unfortunately, once vision is lost, it can never be regained.
Our range of glaucoma treatment plans can help preserve your current vision and prevent future loss.
Who is at risk
Glaucoma can occur in people of all races at any age. However, the likelihood of developing glaucoma increases if you:
- are African American
- have a relative with glaucoma
- are diabetic
- are very nearsighted
- are over 35 years of age
Everyone should be checked for glaucoma at around age 35 and again at age 40. Those considered to be at higher risk, including those over the age of 60 should have their pressure checked every year or two.
Ninety percent of glaucoma patients have open-angle glaucoma. Although it cannot be cured, it can usually be controlled. Vision loss may be minimized with early treatment. The eye receives its nourishment from a clear fluid that circulates inside the eye.
This fluid must be constantly returned to the blood stream through the eye’s drainage canal, called the trabecular meshwork. In the case of open-angle glaucoma, something has gone wrong with the drainage canal. When the fluid cannot drain fast enough, pressure inside the eye begins to build.This excess fluid pressure pushes against the delicate optic nerve that connects the eye to the brain. If the pressure remains too high for too long, irreversible vision loss can occur.
Symptoms of open-angle glaucoma:
- In the early stages, there are no symptoms. There is no pain or outward sign of trouble.
- Mild aching in the eyes
- Gradual loss of peripheral vision (the top, sides and bottom areas of vision)
- Seeing halos around lights
- Reduced visual acuity (especially at night, that is not correctable with glasses)
Treatments for open-angle glaucoma:
To control glaucoma, your doctor will use one of three basic types of treatment: medicines, laser surgery, or filtration surgery. The goal of treatment is to lower the pressure in the eye.
Medicines come in pill and eye drop form. They work by either slowing the production of fluid within the eye or by improving the flow through the drainage meshwork. To be effective, most glaucoma medications must be taken between one to four times every day, without fail. Some of these medications have some undesirable side effects, so your doctor will work with you to find a medication that controls your pressure with the least amount of side effects. Medicines should never be stopped without consulting your doctor, and you should notify all of your other doctors about the medications you are taking.
MicroPulse Laser Trabeculoplasty and Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty surgery treat the drainage canal. Requiring only numbing eye drops, the laser beam is applied to the trabecular meshwork resulting in an improved rate of drainage. When laser surgery is successful, it may reduce the need for daily medications.
(also called Closed-Angle Glaucoma)
Narrow-angle glaucoma is much more rare and is very different from open-angle glaucoma in that eye pressure usually goes up very fast. This happens when the drainage canals get blocked or covered over. The iris gets pushed against the lens of the eye, shutting off the drainage angle. Sometimes the lens and the iris stick to each other. This results in pressure increasing suddenly, usually in one eye. There may be a feeling of fullness in the eye along with reddening, swelling and blurred vision.
Symptoms of narrow-angle glaucoma:
The onset of acute narrow-angle glaucoma is typically rapid, constituting an emergency. If not treated promptly, this glaucoma produces blindness in the affected eye in three to five days. Symptoms may include:
- Inflammation and pain
- Pressure over the eye
- Moderate pupil dilation that’s non-reactive to light
- Cloudy cornea
- Blurring and decreased visual acuity
- Extreme sensitivity to light
- Seeing halos around lights
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Causes of narrow-angle glaucoma:
- Defect in the eye structure
- Anything that causes the pupil to dilate — dim lighting, dilation drops
- Certain oral or injected medications
- Blow to the eye
- Diabetes-related growth of abnormal blood vessels over the angle
Treatment for narrow-angle glaucoma:
Laser iridotomy is a common treatment for narrow-angle glaucoma. During this procedure, a laser is used to create a small hole in the iris, restoring the flow of fluid to the front of the eye. In most patients, the iridotomy is placed in the upper portion of the iris, under the upper eyelid, where it cannot be seen.
Filtration surgery is performed when medicines and/or laser surgery are unsuccessful in controlling eye pressure. During this microscopic procedure, a new drainage channel is created to allow fluid to drain from the eye.
Call our office at 800.243.2020 to schedule your glaucoma screening today!