Glaucoma Treatments Can Help You Avoid Vision Loss
Glaucoma raises the pressure inside your eye, increasing your risk of visual impairment or blindness. Fortunately, treatments offered by your ophthalmologist can help you protect your ability to see.
How Glaucoma Affects Your Vision
Glaucoma damages your optic nerve, the crucial connection between your eyes and your brain. The damage occurs when the aqueous humor, a fluid that nourishes your lens and cornea, builds up inside the eye. A well-functioning drainage system is essential to aqueous humor balance. As new fluid is produced, the older fluid drains from the eye. When drainage channels become blocked, fluid builds up and presses on the optic nerve, damaging it.
Symptoms vary depending on the type of glaucoma you have. Common types include:
- Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. Pressure builds slowly if you have this form of the disease. Most people don't even know that they have primary open-angle glaucoma until they experience blind spots in their vision. Unfortunately, once the damage occurs, it can't be corrected. Scheduling yearly eye exams with your ophthalmologist may help you avoid the devastating effects of glaucoma. A quick test can determine if the pressure inside your eye is too high. Your eye doctor will also examine your optic nerve after dilating your eyes.
- Angle-Closure Glaucoma. Angle-closure glaucoma can happen very quickly and may cause obvious symptoms, unlike primary open-angle glaucoma. The trouble starts when your iris blocks drainage channels in your eye, causing pressure to rise. If the blockage occurs suddenly, you may experience severe pain in your eye, redness, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, headache, and halos around lights. Emergency treatment can prevent or limit the damage to your eye.
- Normal-Tension Glaucoma. In some cases, glaucoma can occur even if the pressure inside your eye is normal. You may be at increased risk of developing normal-tension glaucoma if you have a family history of the disease, are of Japanese descent or have systemic heart disease, according to the Glaucoma Research Foundation. You may lose peripheral or side vision if you have the disease, although you may have no symptoms at first.
Glaucoma Treatments Can Help Preserve Your Vision
Glaucoma treatment can be as simple as using special eye drops every day. The drops lower the pressure in your eye by decreasing fluid production. Some drops also improve fluid drainage.
Although the drops are very beneficial, they can cause a few side effects, including stinging, blurred vision, headaches, dry mouth or fatigue. Stinging and blurry vision often gets better as your eyes adjust to the drops. If you're concerned about side effects, don't stop using the drops. Call your ophthalmologist to discuss your problems. He or she may prescribe a different type of drop that is less likely to cause side effects.
If drops alone don't decrease your eye pressure enough, your eye doctor may add an oral medication to your treatment plan. The medication also decreases fluid production and improves pressure.
Other treatment options include:
- Trabeculoplasty. If you have primary open-angle glaucoma, and your pressure hasn't decreased after using drops or pills, your eye doctor may recommend a trabeculoplasty. This procedure involves using a laser to improve drainage inside your eye. The surgery only takes about 15 minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis. Over the next several weeks, the pressure in your eye will drop. You may still need to use prescription eye drops after the procedure, although some people will be able to discontinue the drops.
- Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI). LPI creates a new drainage route by making a small opening through your iris with a laser. It's used to treat angle-closure glaucoma.
- Cycloablation. Cycloablation damages the ciliary body, the part of the eye that produces the aqueous humor. As a result, fluid production declines. This laser procedure is used if your pressure is still high after you've had other treatments, or you can't undergo other treatment options due to the shape of your eye.
- Trabeculectomy. During a trabeculectomy, your ophthalmologist makes a flap in your sclera, the white part of your eye. The flap allows extra fluid to drain easily. It's performed for both open-angle and angle-closure glaucoma and is used when other treatments haven't been helpful.
- Drainage Implant Surgery. Adding a small silicone tube to the front chamber of the eye creates a permanent drainage path and lowers pressure inside the eye.
- Micro-Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS). MIGS uses less invasive surgical techniques to improve drainage, decrease fluid production, and reduce pressure. Some of these surgeries can be performed at the same time as cataract surgery.
If you suffer from glaucoma and would like to find the best treatment option for you, contact us to schedule an appointment.
Glaucoma Research Foundation: Normal-Tension Glaucoma
National Eye Institute: Facts About Glaucoma
Bright Focus Foundation: Six Questions to Ask Before Starting Glaucoma Treatment
The Glaucoma Foundation: Treating Glaucoma