Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, reports the Glaucoma Research Foundation . This common eye condition typically affects older adults, although infants and young adults are also at risk. Fortunately, however, cutting-edge research is improving diagnosis and treatment of this common eye disease. Talk to your optometrist about glaucoma care for the latest information about treatment options.
Causes and Symptoms of Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a condition characterized by increased pressure within the eye, which damages the optic nerve that sends visual information to the brain. Most cases of glaucoma are called open-angle glaucoma, which occurs when drainage channels are partially blocked and cause gradual increases in intraocular pressure. The primary symptom of open-angle glaucoma is gradual loss of peripheral vision. Acute angle closure glaucoma, on the other hand, occurs when the iris bulges and suddenly blocks drainage channels. This form of glaucoma causes rapid pressure increases, associated with eye pain, nausea, and vision problems.
Traditional Glaucoma Care
For many years, the approach to glaucoma care included medications in the form of eye drops. The traditional approach most commonly featured beta blocker eye drops, which were used to alleviate intraocular pressure. Many patients disliked beta blockers because of their adverse side effects. Surgery was another alternative for severe cases of glaucoma, but surgical techniques often came with unpleasant side effects as well.
Advances in Glaucoma Care
Today, improved medication options and surgical procedures offer hope for patients with glaucoma. Many individuals now use prostaglandin eye drops, which are more effective at reducing intraocular pressure and come with fewer side effects than beta blockers. Other pharmaceutical treatments, including alpha-adrenergic agonists or miotic agents, are also used in glaucoma treatment. New classes of medications continue to be investigated, such as nitrous oxide donating molecules. These molecules dilate the venous and drainage systems, allowing more adequate drainage and pressure decrease.
New surgical techniques are also being employed. Glaucoma experts are excited about micropulse laser trabeculoplasty (MLT), a surgery that uses a laser pulse to reduce intraocular pressure. MLT has a lower risk of side effects than more traditional surgical options. Canaloplasty, in which is tiny catheter is placed into the eye’s drainage canal, is another new surgical technique to lower intraocular pressure. Some of the most exciting advances in glaucoma care are Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgeries (MIGS), which improve fluid drainage in the eye. These surgeries are performed in out-patient clinics, allowing patients to undergo surgery and return home the same day. These are often performed in conjunction with cataract surgery.
How Can I Find Out If I Have Glaucoma?
Yearly comprehensive eye exams can help you avoid vision loss due to glaucoma. Since symptoms do not usually occur until there is already damage, frequent screening tests are important.
- Tonometry measures the pressure inside your eye
- Dilating eye drops allow the doctors to look at the health of the back of your eye look for glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetes, high blood pressure.
- Gonioscopy is able to assess the drainage system of your eye
- Pictures and an OCT scan of the optic nerve can track progression of glaucoma
- Our office offers an iWellness scan of the back of your eye which can show if your eye is structurally at risk for glaucoma
- Visual field testing to determine if there has been peripheral vision loss
- Pachymetry: Measures the thickness of the front surface of your eye
Concerned that you are at risk for glaucoma? We offer all of the testing for glaucoma in our office so call and schedule an eye exam today.
-The DaVinci Eye Care Family