Glaucoma is an eye condition that affects nearly 1% of the American population every year, and on a global scale, it is the second leading cause of blindness. At Wichita Vision Institute in Wichita, KS, Dr. Patel offers several glaucoma treatment methods. Today, we’re taking a closer look at this serious disease, including how it can be treated, when help from an ophthalmologist should be sought, what causes it, and much more.
How Can You Treat Glaucoma?
Glaucoma treatments vary based on a multitude of factors, including the type of glaucoma, the severity of the disease, and your medical history. If you suffer from open-angle glaucoma, eye drops or laser therapy may be ideal treatment options for you. Other options include oral medications and surgery.
Glaucoma Eye Drops
Glaucoma eye drops are designed to preserve vision by reducing ocular pressure. Some drops, like carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, beta-blockers, and alpha agonists, reduce the amount of aqueous humor your eye produces. Aqueous humor is the fluid that flows inside your eye.
Other drops, like prostaglandin analogs and miotics, increase the rate at which aqueous humor is excreted. Just be aware that you will probably need to administer one to four doses of your drops daily for the rest of your life to stave off blindness.
Alpha-adrenergic agonists are one of the most common types of glaucoma eye drops. This medication is highly effective because it simultaneously reduces the production of aqueous humor and increases the rate at which it is excreted. Apraclonidine and brimonidine are common examples of alpha-adrenergic agonists.
Prostaglandin analogs are another very popular type of glaucoma eye drops. Some of the most common medications in this category are latanoprostene bunod, bimatoprost, tafluprost, travoprost, and latanoprost.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty
Selective laser trabeculoplasty is a laser-assisted minimally-invasive procedure designed to modify the drainage angle. When the drainage angle is widened, the aqueous humor can drain more efficiently. This procedure is often recommended for people who cannot afford glaucoma eye drops or do not have a lifestyle conducive to administering eye drops consistently.
Selective laser trabeculoplasty is a convenient procedure that takes fewer than 10 minutes to complete. During this procedure, Dr. Patel uses a neodymium:YAG laser to target the pigments in your iris. The small amount of energy emitted by the laser triggers a healing response that results in the drainage angle widening.
Laser Peripheral Iridotomy
Laser peripheral iridotomy is an effective glaucoma treatment method when the iris of your eye blocks the drainage angle. This procedure can correct both partially blocked and completely blocked drainage angles. It involves the use of a neodymium:YAG laser to create a new drainage pathway in the iris, relieving pressure.
This procedure takes just a few minutes to complete, and you shouldn’t anticipate any pain because anesthetic numbing eye drops are administered. Additionally, Dr. Patel will administer glaucoma eye drops to manage the pressure inside your eye during surgery. After your procedure, the pressure inside your eye will be monitored for a while. Then, you will be free to go home and rest.
Oral medications may be recommended in addition to or instead of eye drops. Typically, beta-blockers or carbonic anhydrase inhibitors are taken orally to treat glaucoma.
When Should I See an Eye Doctor?
You should schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist if you suspect you suffer from glaucoma. A timely glaucoma evaluation is vital because damage done by the disease is irreversible.
What Are the Symptoms of Open-Angle Glaucoma?
During the early stages of this disease, there are no symptoms. As the disease progresses, you will slowly start to notice patchy blind spots in your peripheral vision. If you don’t seek glaucoma treatment when you start noticing blind spots, your central vision will start to fail.
What Are the Symptoms of Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma?
Some of the most common symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma are severe eye pain, severe headache, and blurred vision. You also may suffer from this disease if you see colored rings or halos around lights. Moreover, redness in your eyes may indicate that you suffer from acute angle-closure glaucoma. Depending on the severity of the pain you experience, you may also experience nausea or vomiting if you suffer from this disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Normal-Tension Glaucoma?
Normal-tension glaucoma, like open-angle glaucoma, presents no symptoms in the early stages of the disease. If you suffer from this disease, over time, your vision will blur, and you will lose your peripheral vision.
What Are the Symptoms of Pigmentary Glaucoma?
People who suffer from pigmentary glaucoma see halos around lights when the disease is in its infancy. As it progresses, symptoms may include progressive peripheral vision loss and blurred vision while exercising.
What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma in Children?
Infants suffering from glaucoma blink unusually often and their eyes may be dull or cloudy. Additionally, tears will fall from their eyes in the absence of crying. Older children may experience such symptoms as blurred vision, worsening nearsightedness, and headaches.
How Can Early-Stage Glaucoma Be Detected?
For the greatest possible chance of getting a glaucoma diagnosis before serious damage is done, you should get comprehensive eye exams regularly. The American Academy of Ophthalmology advises that most people get a comprehensive eye examination every five to 10 years if they are under the age of 40. Individuals between the ages of 40 and 54 should have a comprehensive eye exam every two to four years.
Generally, testing is recommended every one to three years if you are between the ages of 55 and 64. You should have a comprehensive eye exam every year or two if you are over the age of 65. However, you may need to come in for more frequent screening if you have a family history of the disease.
How Is This Condition Diagnosed?
A thorough review of your medical history and a comprehensive eye exam are necessary for the diagnosis of glaucoma. Additionally, other tests may be conducted to determine if you suffer from this disease, including:
- A dilated eye exam
- Imaging tests
- A visual field test
Tonometry is a test designed to measure intraocular pressure. Dilated eye examinations and imaging tests are helpful for identifying and determining the scope of optic nerve damage. Visual field tests are used to check for spots of vision loss. Pachymetry is used to measure the thickness of the cornea, and gonioscopy is used to quantify the drainage angle.
What Causes Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is caused by optic nerve damage. At first, this nerve damage may be undetectable, but as it continues to deteriorate, blind spots will develop in your field of view. It is not currently clear why, but most of the time, excessive eye pressure is responsible for the nerve damage that leads to glaucoma.
This excessive eye pressure is caused by a buildup of aqueous humor. In people with good ocular health, this fluid drains through a tissue located between the cornea and iris called the trabecular meshwork. The greater the angle at the convergence of the cornea and iris, the more efficiently the aqueous humor will drain.
What Are the Risk Factors for Developing This Condition?
Some of the strongest risk factors for developing this disease are being over 55 years of age, having high intraocular (internal eye) pressure, having a family history of the disease, and being of Hispanic, Asian, or African descent. Additionally, you are more likely to develop this condition if you suffer from extreme farsightedness or nearsightedness or have corneas that are very thin in the middle.
Certain medical conditions, like hypertension, sickle cell anemia, migraines, and diabetes, also increase your risk of developing glaucoma. Moreover, you have an increased risk of developing this disease if you use corticosteroid drugs, like eye drops, over a long period of time. Additionally, you have a higher risk of developing glaucoma if your eye has been injured or you have undergone certain types of eye surgery. Narrow drainage angles increase your risk of angle-closure glaucoma.
Find Out Today Which Glaucoma Treatment Method Is Right for You
Glaucoma treatment usually starts with laser therapy or eye drops. Oral medications and surgery are also effective for the treatment of open-angle glaucoma. If you suffer from acute angle-closure glaucoma, it is likely that laser iridotomy will be a good treatment option for you. To schedule a glaucoma evaluation with Dr. Patel, contact us now at Wichita Vision Institute in Wichita, KS.