Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that lead to damage of the optic nerve. This is often due to high pressure inside the eye, but can also happen with normal or low pressures as well. You can develop glaucoma at any age, from birth on. Glaucoma often runs in families, but can be “sporadic” or non-genetic as well. Diabetics and blacks also have a higher risk of developing glaucoma.
Glaucoma can also develop as a result of another problem, called “secondary glaucoma”. These include trauma, infection, steroid use, inflammation in the eye, and neovascular glaucoma (decreased blood supply causes new blood vessels to grow over the eye drain).
At this time, we have no way to prevent or reverse glaucoma damage, but we can intitiate treatment to slow or stop progression. In glaucoma, our treatment is based on lowering the eye pressure, whether we decrease the amount of fluid made inside the eye, or we increase the amount of fluid drained away from the eye. The earlier we start glaucoma treatment, the better the prognosis for maintaining vision. If untreated, glaucoma leads to painless, permanent vision loss, so it is very important to have your eyes screened for glaucoma, particularly if you have a family history of this disease.
Glaucoma screening and evaluation involves:
- checking intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eyeball)
- dilated eye exam to evaluate the optic nerves for suspicion of glaucoma damage
- appropriate office testing, if indicated, to monitor the anatomy and the function of the optic nerve
At this time, there are multiple different treatment methods for lowering intraocular pressure to treat glaucoma, including:
- oral pills
- laser trabeculoplasty (this is an option if the eyedrops do not sufficiently lower the eye pressure)
- this is performed in an outpatient office setting and does not require an IV or anesthesia, only numbing eyedrops
- this stimulates the drain of the eye to function more efficiently, so more fluid is drained out of the eye
- the results may be temporary, but the laser can be repeated for effect
- conventional surgery (this is used when drops and/or laser do not work to lower the eye pressure)
- IV anesthesia in the operating room is required
- These surgeries involve creating a draining flap, adding a drainage valve, or destroying the tissue that creates the fluid inside the eye.
The most important thing to remember with glaucoma is that it most often is painless and
progressive, so an evaluation with your eye doctor is recommended at least once a year.
Call to schedule your glaucoma evaluation today!