Glaucoma is the name for a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve of the eye. When the optic nerve suffers damage, it can no longer send signals to the brain. This makes it impossible for the vision process to occur. Most glaucoma occurs because of high pressure in the eye, commonly known as high intraocular pressure, or IOP. But the disease can occur with normal or low pressure as well.
If left untreated, glaucoma can result in a serious loss of vision and blindness. Glaucoma is dangerous because many patients don’t notice symptoms until vision loss has occurred.
Is Glaucoma Preventable?
Sadly, most types of glaucoma are not preventable. Early detection and treatment can usually control the disease before severe vision loss occurs. Glaucoma typically affects side (peripheral) vision first. For this reason, most people do not notice that their vision has changed.
Eye specialists recommend that everyone over the age of 40 have a comprehensive annual eye exam. This should include pupil dilation.
Dr. Barsam will check your eye pressure and the condition of your optic nerve as part of this exam.
Is Everyone at Risk for Glaucoma?
Glaucoma affects nearly three million Americans. Some groups of people are at higher risk for developing the disease, including:
- African Americans
- Those of Hispanic/Latino background
- Adults over 60 years old
- People with a family history of glaucoma
- Patients with diabetes and high blood pressure
What Are the Different Types of Glaucoma?
Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma. It usually develops slowly as people age. With this type of glaucoma, the eye’s fluid drainage canals become clogged over time.
Angle Closure Glaucoma is a medical emergency. To avoid severe vision loss, you must treat it immediately. It occurs suddenly when the fluid in the eye cannot drain and causes a rapid increase in eye pressure. The most common symptoms include severe eye or head pain, sudden loss of vision, blurry vision, and nausea.
Low or Normal-Tension Glaucoma occurs when people with normal eye pressure experience damage to the optic nerve or side vision loss.
Congenital Glaucoma is a condition that occurs when children are born with a defect in the angle of the eye that interferes with fluid drainage.
Secondary Glaucoma can occur as a result of other diseases or treatments, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes that isn’t under control
- Cataract complications
- Uveitis inflammation
- Steroid treatments
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
High intraocular pressure is often caused by a problem with fluid in the eye not draining properly. Glaucoma is commonly treated by lowering or regulating the pressure in the eye. Doctors use three different methods to do this:
Medications in the form of eye drops or pills are usually the first treatment that eye doctors try. There are a wide variety of drugs that lower eye pressure effectively. Some reduce the amount of fluid the eye produces, and others help fluid drain from the eye. Medical treatment of glaucoma is only effective when patients use their eye drops as prescribed.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is a painless office procedure. During this procedure, the doctor applies an intense beam of light to the drainage system of the eye. It’s used for patients with open-angle glaucoma when eye drops are not lowering eye pressure enough or are causing uncomfortable side effects.
SLT usually reduces eye pressure significantly. The treatment usually lasts for 1 -5 years, and it can be repeated.
Micro-Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS)
A variety of new “micro-invasive surgical treatments have been developed in the last ten years to treat the drainage system. These procedures can be effective in reducing intraocular pressure with lower risks than traditional surgery.
Trabeculectomy surgery is a more traditional approach that has been performed for many years. This procedure is usually performed when other medical and laser treatments have failed. With this procedure, the surgeon creates a new channel for the fluid to drain from the eye. The fluid is eventually absorbed by the tissue around the eye. There are risks and benefits to all the treatments for glaucoma. Dr. Barsam can explain the options that are best for you.
Looking for glaucoma treatment? Barsam Vision and Aesthetics Center in Waltham, MA has the treatment options you’re looking for! Request an appointment with Dr. Barsam now!