Preparation and Prevention
For a Silent Destroyer
The leading cause of blindness in the U.S., glaucoma is a progressive disease that attacks the optic nerve. This is normally the result of fluid buildup, from improper drainage, at the front of the eyeball. Anyone can get glaucoma, but it is most commonly found in older persons, due to the body’s general deterioration as we age.
Though there are four main forms of glaucoma, the most typical are primary open-angle glaucoma and primary angle closure. Open-angle glaucoma, the most common type, occurs when fluid in the eye has difficulty draining through the trabecular network, a tissue area located around the base of the cornea. With angle-closure, sudden pressure buildup narrows the angle between the iris and the cornea, leading to poor drainage. Less common are normal-tension glaucoma, in which the optic nerve has been damaged without any excessive pressure, and congenital glaucoma, an infant disease involving poor development of the eye’s drainage canal.
Tracking Down the Symptoms
In its early stages, open-angle glaucoma can go undetected because often there is no noticeable pain or vision loss. As the disease progresses, however, certain symptoms begin to emerge. On the other hand, angle-closure glaucoma announces itself suddenly, with severe eye pain, headache and nausea. This is often accompanied by blurred vision and the perception of halos around lights.
Making the Diagnosis
While increasing symptoms may prompt some patients to seek medical help, others many be unaware of the problem until they undergo a routine eye examination. At Advanced Eye Surgery Clinic, we perform several tests to check for glaucoma. These include visual field and visual acuity tests, which gauge your peripheral vision and test how well you can see at a variety of distances. Another exam that we perform is tonometry, a diagnostic test that measures inside, or intraocular, eye pressure. Other tests include optical coherence tomography (OCT), an imaging method that captures two and three-dimensional photos from the patient’s optical biological tissue, and corneal pachymetry that measures the thickness of the cornea.
Your Glaucoma Treatment
It’s important to begin treatment for your glaucoma quickly after it has been diagnosed, so as not to risk permanent loss of vision. Although there is no cure for glaucoma at the moment, we can provide advanced treatment that relieves the troublesome symptoms and prevents any further eye damage. In the vast majority of cases, treatment entails prescription eye drops and/or oral medication, laser surgery or microsurgery. Often, a combination of these treatments is prescribed. The method that we recommend would be based upon your particular condition, its severity and your overall health. Before any treatment is prescribed, we always sit down with you to thoroughly discuss your situation.
Let’s take a closer look at the three most common treatments for glaucoma:
Eye Drops – The drops are effective in reducing the production of fluid at the front of the eye, so that excess fluid can drain properly. Some side effects, such as redness, irritation or blurry vision can occur, so please be sure to inform us of any allergies you have so that we can work with you to minimize the side effects.
Laser Surgery – There are a number of different laser treatments available to treat your glaucoma. Depending upon the surgery, the goal is to either enhance the outflow of aqueous fluid from the eye or to slow the formation of the fluid.
Microsurgery – This procedure, called a trabeculectomy, creates a new pathway through which the eye fluid can drain and helps to reduce the optical pressure. This is usually the method of choice if medication and laser have been unsuccessful.
At the present, there are no known ways to prevent glaucoma from developing, though regular examinations and early detection can help minimize more serious damage from the disease. There are, however, risk factors that make certain people more susceptible to getting glaucoma. These include:
- Over 60 years of age
- African-Americans older than 40
- Family genetics predisposed to glaucoma
- Poor vision, especially nearsightedness
At Advanced Eye Surgery Clinic, we recommend scheduling a dilated eye exam at least every two years, especially if you are one of those in the higher risk category. More frequent testing may be recommended for elderly patients.
Seeing Is Believing
Glaucoma can be a very serious condition that could rob you of your sight and the lifestyle you know and love. We encourage you to practice good preventive maintenance by following a consistent screening routine for your eyes. Put your trust in our skilled staff at Advanced Eye Surgery Clinic, and you will see what a difference quality care can make.