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Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve, the part of the eye which receives images collected by the retina and sends them to the brain.  Every eye maintains a certain amount of internal pressure, called intraocular pressure.  When this pressure rises to abnormal levels, it can put extra stress on the optic nerve, causing significant damage, including loss of vision, and ultimately, blindness.

The front of the eye is constantly producing a fluid called aqueous humor.  A healthy eye will continually produce small amounts of aqueous humor to ensure consistent pressure within the eye.  When normal drainage becomes slowed or blocked, pressure increases can lead to glaucoma.  The two most common forms of glaucoma include:

  • Chronic open-angle glaucoma
  • Closed-angle glaucoma

The most common form of glaucoma, which commonly develops with age, is chronic open-angle.  Although there are no symptoms in the early stages, pressure gradually increases around the eye causing it to work less effectively.  Peripheral vision begins to deteriorate, and as the disease progresses, blank spots in the vision begin to appear.  If left untreated, blindness can occur.  Early diagnosis and treatment will help avoid serious vision loss.

Risk factors for chronic open-angle glaucoma include:

  • Advanced age.
  • Family history of the disease.
  • Higher-than-normal intraocular pressure.
  • Certain ethnic races, particularly those of African descent.
  • Certain diseases or conditions, especially diabetes, farsightedness or nearsightedness, previous eye trauma or surgery.

Closed-angle glaucoma is less prevalent, but is considered a real eye emergency.  This type of glaucoma occurs when a patient’s pupil moves or dilates and actually blocks off the drainage angles in the eye.  At this point, the doctor should be contacted immediately to avoid any vision loss.

Symptoms of closed-angle glaucoma include:

  • Severe eye pain.
  • Headache.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Rainbow halos around lights.

High risk factors for closed-angle glaucoma include:

  • Extreme farsightedness.
  • An iris that is abnormally large or far back in the eye.
  • Advanced age.
  • Heredity.
  • Certain ethnic races, especially Asians.

Treatments for glaucoma:

There are a wide range of treatments for the disease, including medication, laser surgery and traditional surgery.  The doctor will base the treatment, or combination of treatments, on the type of glaucoma and the individual case.  Prescription eye drops which help reduce intraocular pressure or carbonic anhydrase inhibitors which slow down fluid production in the eye are medications which might be indicated.

Laser surgery has also become a common treatment option for glaucoma.  For open-angle glaucoma the doctor may choose a trabeculoplasty, a painless laser procedure which uses light to shrink and stretch eye tissue to allow more drainage of fluid.  For closed-angle cases, in which the iris is blocking drainage of aqueous humor, a laser surgery called iridotomy may be performed.

Other glaucoma treatment options involve various traditional surgeries.  Traditional surgery, such as a trabeculectomy, for open angle-glaucoma can also be indicated; the doctor will make a small flap in the white part of the eye (the sclera), underneath the sclera he will create a small reservoir where aqueous fluid can drain, reducing intraocular pressure.  Glaucoma patients have several treatments available to them.  The doctor will discuss all these options with you and select the best treatment for your case.  The continued health of your eyes is priority.

If you are experiencing any symptoms of glaucoma, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule a consultation.