What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years old. It is a disease of the optic nerve. The nerve is damaged over time due to elevated eye pressure. The nerve is made up of multiple fibers that carry signals from the eye directly to the brain. Damage to these fibers within the eye is permanent and cannot be reversed. The nerve fibers that carry peripheral vision are the first to be injured, thus patient will not likely notice early changes. By examining the eye, checking the eye pressure, and performing tests, the ophthalmologist can determine the extent of damage to the nerve.
Treatments for Glaucoma
Nerve damage can be prevented by lowering the eye pressure with a variety of treatments. There are three major ways to treat glaucoma, which include; laser surgery, pressure-lowering eye drops, and glaucoma surgery. As glaucoma specialists, we are trained in performing both laser and glaucoma surgery. The laser surgery is performed in the office using low-energy light to increase the flow of fluid out of the drain of the eye. The glaucoma surgeries are performed in the operating room. Glaucoma surgery includes placing a flap on the eye or a tube in the eye to decrease the eye pressure. There are also new treatments, including the iStent implant and ExPRESS mini-shunt. These are metal implants, which are less invasive and can allow for a quicker recovery.
Types of Glaucoma
There are two major types of glaucoma: open angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. The angle is the drainage system of the eye. A patient with an open angle does not have any visual damage or blockage to the drainage system of the eye. A patient with angle-closure glaucoma can have a blockage of the drain by the iris or scarring of the drain. Approximately 1 in 3 patients with angle closure can have a sudden blockage of the drain. This sudden blockage can result in headaches, blurred vision, and in severe cases nausea and vomiting. It is key to lower the eye pressure using laser, eye drops and in some cases surgery.
Risks Factors for Glaucoma
Increased age is the leading risk factor for developing glaucoma. Glaucoma is also almost 4 times more common in patient with African descent due to increased likelihood of a thinner cornea and larger optic nerve. The other risk factors include steroid use, previous trauma, and migraines. Talk with the eye doctor regarding your family history of glaucoma, diabetes, and blindness.