Glaucoma is a serious disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, potentially causing blindness. There are various treatments, including glaucoma surgery, that can help suffering.
The condition can manifest in different ways, but usually it happens when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. This increases pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure (IOP), which then damages the optic nerve. The optic nerve transmits images to the brain, and when high IOP continues to damage it, vision is permanently lost. Because the signs, symptoms, and treatment for glaucoma are so varied, one person with glaucoma may have sudden pain and redness, while many have no symptoms at all until the disease is quite advanced. Glaucoma damage is permanent, but with regular eye exams, your doctor can detect glaucoma earlier and prescribe treatment to prevent further damage and vision loss. Without adequate treatment, glaucoma can cause total, permanent blindness.
There are two main types of glaucoma:
Open-angle glaucoma is also referred to as wide-angle glaucoma and is the most common type of glaucoma. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the eye’s filter, called the trabecular meshwork (like a clogged drain). The eye pressure builds and starts to damage the optic nerve, but this type of glaucoma is painless and sometimes without noticeable vision loss for many years as the initial sight loss is of side or peripheral vision.
Angle-closure glaucoma, also called acute or chronic angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma, is less common than open-angle glaucoma, but can also lead to permanent blindness. Many people with chronic angle-closure glaucoma develop it slowly, but it can also cause a sudden build-up of pressure in the eye leading to an acute attack. Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea (where a drainage channel for the eye is located) is too narrow. Or, the pupil opens too wide, narrowing the angle and blocking the flow of the fluid through that channel. An attack of angle-closure glaucoma includes the following:
People with these symptoms should be checked by an ophthalmologist as soon as possible as attacks may lead to rapid vision loss.
As of 2010, there were 60.5 million people with OAG and ACG, which is projected to increase to 79.6 million by 2020. Of those, 74% will have OAG. Women comprise 55% of OAG, 70% of ACG, and 59% of all glaucoma in 2010. Asians represent 47% of those with glaucoma and 87% of those with ACG. Bilateral blindness is present in 4.5 million people with OAG and 3.9 million people with ACG as of 2010, projected to rise to 5.9 and 5.3 million people in 2020, respectively.
For most people there are usually few or no symptoms of glaucoma. The first sign of glaucoma is often the loss of peripheral or side vision, which can go unnoticed until late in the disease. Detecting glaucoma early is one reason you should have a complete eye exam from an eye doctor every year. Occasionally, IOP can rise to severe levels. In these cases sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision, or the appearance of halos around lights may occur.
If you have any combination of the following symptoms, contact your physician immediately:
Most of the risk factors such as age, race, and genetics for glaucoma are beyond your control. However, because most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from this increased pressure, it is important to see your eye care professional regularly so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term vision loss occurs. If there is a history of glaucoma in your family or if you have other risk factors for glaucoma, talk with your health professional about having more frequent exams. Wear protective eye gear when necessary to avoid blunt trauma to the eye, which can cause traumatic glaucoma.
Treatment for glaucoma often includes prescription eye drops, but can also include laser glaucoma surgery. Eye drop treatments reduce the formation of fluid in the front of the eye or increase its outflow. Side effects of glaucoma drops may include redness of the eyes, brief stinging or visual blurring, and irritated eyes.
During this laser procedure, a non-burning beam of laser light is focused on the part of the eye where the fluid is drained. This results in a series of small changes, which makes it easier for fluid to exit the eye. Over time, the effect of laser surgery may wear off, so continued evaluations are needed. Patients who have this form of glaucoma surgery may need to keep taking glaucoma medications, but many can reduce or stop using drops.
For patients that have also developed cataracts and are in need of cataract surgery and glaucoma surgery, there is another option: the iStent. The iStent device can be implanted at the time of cataract surgery, and will begin working to safely and effectively manage pressure. What’s more, patients who receive iStent may experience a reduction in glaucoma medications, but this will be at the discretion of your physician.
The iStent® Trabecular Micro-Bypass Stent is indicated for use in conjunction with cataract surgery for the reduction of intraocular pressure (IOP) in adult patients with mild to moderate open-angle glaucoma currently treated with ocular hypotensive medication.
Your Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity to Have Your Glaucoma & Cataracts Addressed at the Same Time
If you’ve been managing your glaucoma symptoms with medication, and now are preparing for cataract surgery, iStent® may be an ideal option for you. By taking advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during cataract surgery, you can help address both of these conditions at the same time.
If you experience any of the above symptoms, or need to schedule an eye exam, contact our World-Class Eye Care™ office today!
Download and print this packet to bring with you to your consultation.