May 28, 2020
There are many different diseases that can affect the health of our eyes, and ultimately, our vision. Many people have heard of glaucoma, and it is estimated to affect as many as three million adults in the United States. However, a large percentage of the population doesn’t understand exactly what it is and how it could put their vision at risk.
Glaucoma occurs when there is too much pressure in the eyes. The main cause of excessive intraocular pressure is an accumulation of fluid in the eyes, which tends to be a result of problems with the drainage channels that enable excess fluid to flow out of the eyes. Although it can occur at any age, glaucoma is more likely as we age. When there is too much pressure in the eyes, it causes damage to the optic nerve, which sends images to our brain. The higher the pressure, the more damage occurs, starting with affecting our peripheral vision. Unfortunately, any vision that is lost as a result of glaucoma is irreversible. Since it can be such a devastating condition, glaucoma checks form a part of most routine eye exams.
There are two types of glaucoma, with one being far more common than the other. The most common type of glaucoma, called open-angle glaucoma, develops slowly over months or years, and this means that damage to your vision also occurs very slowly. Meanwhile, the rarer form, closed/acute angle glaucoma is a result of a very sudden accumulation of pressure and is classed as an eye emergency, with patients requiring immediate treatment to lower the pressure in their eyes before permanent damage occurs.
Whichever type of glaucoma you are diagnosed with, your eye doctor will talk to you about the treatment and management of your condition.
The goal of glaucoma is to prevent your vision from deteriorating any further by lowering and controlling the amount of pressure inside your eyes. Think of it as a similar type of treatment for taking blood pressure medication.
There are several different options available, and your eye doctor will make a recommendation as to which treatment you should start with. This is important as if you are diagnosed with closed-angle/acute glaucoma, the focus will be on reducing the pressure in your eyes as quickly as possible before maintaining it at a healthy level. This is necessary to prevent any further damage to your vision which is likely to be occurring at a rapid rate. Meanwhile, patients with the most common type of glaucoma, open-angle, will likely be able to start with less intense treatment.
Some of the different treatment options include the following:
These are available in various forms including tablets that are taken orally and eye drops. They reduce the pressure in your eyes by affecting the amount of fluid being produced, and by improving the way in which it drains. You may need to try several different options to find the one that works best for you.
Laser therapy is recommended for patients for whom medication hasn’t been effective, or for those patients who have closed-angle glaucoma and need fast treatment for relieving the pressure in their eyes. Laser treatment, known as a laser iridotomy, involves the laser being used to create a tiny opening in the iris (the colored part of your eye) so that the drainage channels open and excess fluid can flow out.
In some instances, surgery may be required to create a second drainage channel in the eye, increasing the rate at which excess fluid can be drained. This is normally the case when other treatments haven’t proved to be effective. Many patients who undergo surgery will find that they are much less likely on topical or oral medications to manage the pressure in their eyes,
If you would like more information about glaucoma management, or to schedule an appointment to discuss any concerns that you may have about your vision, please contact our expert eyecare team in Palm Desert, CA today.