Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage your optic nerve. The optic nerve transmits images from the retina to your brain, allowing you to see.
Damage to the optic nerve is irreversible and causes vision loss. If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma, prompt treatment is critical to protect your remaining vision and prevent permanent blindness.
Keep reading to learn more about glaucoma and how treatment helps with the condition!
How Common Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately three million Americans have glaucoma.
There are different types of glaucoma. The most common form typically progresses very slowly and usually has no early symptoms.
That’s why many people with glaucoma don’t know they have the condition. It’s crucial to have regular eye exams to ensure glaucoma is caught and treated early before significant vision loss occurs.
What Are Some Types of Glaucoma?
Two types of glaucoma are angle-closure and open-angle glaucoma.
Open Angle Glaucoma
Open-angle is the most common type of glaucoma. It affects over ninety percent of glaucoma patients, advances very slowly, and often has no early physical symptoms.
Open-angle glaucoma occurs when a blockage in your eye’s drainage system causes fluid buildup. An accumulation of fluid increases your eye pressure and damages the optic nerve.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma leads to an abrupt increase in your eye pressure or intraocular pressure, also known as IOP. It develops quite quickly and is a medical emergency.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma can cause rapid vision loss and blindness without treatment. Symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma include:
- Severe eye pain
- Halos around lights
- Severe headache
- Blurred vision
- Eye redness
- Nausea and vomiting
Are There Risk Factors for Glaucoma?
Anyone can get glaucoma. However, some people are more at risk than others. The risk factors for glaucoma are:
- Age over fifty-five
- Thinner corneas
- Family history of glaucoma
- Previous eye surgery
- Serious eye injury in the past
- Hispanic, African American, or Asian heritage
- Long-term use of corticosteroid medications
- High intraocular pressure
- Extreme farsightedness or nearsightedness
- Certain medical conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sickle cell anemia, or migraines
- Lifestyle choices like smoking, excessive alcohol use, or too much exposure to the sun
Eye doctors recommend getting a comprehensive eye exam every year if you have any of the above risk factors. Regular eye examinations are key to preventing unnecessary vision loss.
What Types of Glaucoma Treatments Are Available?
Glaucoma still doesn’t have a cure. But with careful monitoring and treatment, it can be effectively controlled and vision loss prevented.
The goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower your eye pressure. Reducing your intraocular pressure slows the progression of glaucoma and helps preserve your eyesight.
Glaucoma treatment is usually required for life.
Eye drops are usually the first line of glaucoma treatment. They reduce your eye pressure by either improving the flow of fluid through the drainage angle or decreasing the amount of aqueous fluid produced by the eye.
Eye drops are applied several times daily, sometimes in combination with oral drugs. If your glaucoma worsens or your medication doesn’t lower your eye pressure to safe levels, your doctor may need to change your treatment over time.
In addition to eye drops, your glaucoma specialist may suggest laser surgery to treat your condition. One laser procedure that is common in those with narrow-angle or angle-closure glaucoma is an LPI or laser peripheral iridotomy.
During the LPI procedure, our eye doctor applies a local anesthetic to numb your eye. Then, they will use a laser to create a tiny hole in the iris, which is the colored part of your eye.
The new opening allows the aqueous fluid to drain out your eye more easily and increases the angle size. Increased outflow brings your eye pressure down and slows or prevents optic nerve damage.
For open-angle glaucoma, selective laser trabeculoplasty, or SLT, is used to decrease the production of fluid in your eye. It can also be used to increase the outflow of fluid from your eye.
Following your laser procedure, you may experience mild blurry vision and irritation. But you should be able to resume your normal routine the same day.
The type of laser procedure your doctor recommends will depend on the kind of glaucoma you have and its severity.
You may need glaucoma surgery if:
- You can’t tolerate eye drops
- Other treatment options don’t work
- You have acute angle-closure glaucoma or advanced glaucoma, where a blockage causes a rapid increase in your eye pressure
Surgery is urgently required to intervene and protect your remaining vision. There are different types of glaucoma surgeries, they include:
- ExPress mini-tube shunt
- Ahmed and Baerveldt tube shunts
- Minimally invasive glaucoma surgeries (MIGS) – iStent Inject, OMNI, Kahook Dual-Blade, Hydrus Microstent, and GATT.
Prevent Vision Loss from Glaucoma
The top-rated glaucoma specialists at Sierra Nevada Eye Center recommend frequent eye exams. That’s the only way to detect glaucoma early and ensure you maintain a lifetime of the best vision possible.
Are you experiencing symptoms of glaucoma or want to have your eyes screened for the condition? Schedule an appointment at Sierra Nevada Eye Center in Reno, NV, today!