What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is defined as a group of eye disorders leading to progressive damage to the optic nerve by the American Optometric Association. It is characterized by the loss of nerve tissue that results in loss of vision.
While mild-to-moderate open-angle glaucoma is very common, many people are unaware of their condition, especially in the early stages, when their vision may be unaffected. In many people, open-angle glaucoma is characterized by an increase in the intraocular pressure (IOP) of your eye. The pressure is caused by the buildup of fluid within the eye; too much fluid raises pressure, which can cause the gradual loss of vision. And while glaucoma moves slowly, its damage is irreparable.
A serious eye disease, Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States. Glaucoma most often occurs in people over age 40, although a congenital or infantile form of glaucoma does exist. People with a family history of glaucoma, African Americans over the age of 40, and Hispanics over the age of 60 are at an increased risk of developing glaucoma. Other risk factors include thinner corneas, chronic eye inflammation
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Glaucoma is diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination. Testing includes:
- Patient history to determine family history and symptoms
- Visual acuity measurements to determine the extent which vision may be affected
- Tonometry to measure pressure inside the eye
- Pachymetry to measure corneal thickness
- Visual field testing to check if the field of vision has been affected by glaucoma
- Evaluation of the retina which may include photographs of the optic nerve
- Supplemental testing may include gonioscopy, a procedure allowing views of the angle anatomy and serial tonometry which acquires several pressure measurements over time
- One tool we use is Optomap to diagnose glaucoma, along with many other eye health and other diseases. No dilation needed!
South Georgia/North Florida Eye Partners performs these comprehensive eye exams in all five of our offices.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
If glaucoma is detected, treatment often first includes medications to reduce elevated intraocular pressure. If medications don’t work or pressure is elevated in spite of medications, treatments can include one of the following:
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)
This form of laser surgery occurs by laser energy being applied to the drainage tissue in the eye. This starts a chemical and biological change in the tissue that results in better drainage of fluid through the drain and out of the eye, eventually lowering of IOP. It may take 1-3 months for the results to appear.
If eye drops and laser surgery aren’t effective in controlling eye pressure, you may need a filtering procedure called a trabeculectomy. Filtering microsurgery involves creating a drainage flap, allowing fluid to percolate into and later drain into the vascular system.
The world’s tiniest medical device—iStent—is 20,000 times smaller than the intraocular lenses (IOL) used in cataract surgery. But the size of iStent is only part of its story. By increasing the eye’s ability to drain fluid, this technology is designed to reduce the pressure in your eye due to Glaucoma. In a U.S. clinical study, 68% of glaucoma patients who received iStent remained medication free at 12 months while sustaining a target IOP of ≤ 21 mm Hg vs. only 50% of patients who underwent cataract surgery alone.
This procedure utilizes a microcatheter or tube placed in the Canal of Schlemm (the natural site of drainage for healthy eyes) to enlarge the drainage canal, relieving pressure inside the eye. Studies have been published demonstrating long-term efficacy and safety.
There is no cure for glaucoma, but by keeping eye pressure under control, continued damage to the optic nerve and continued loss of your visual field may slow or stop. Early detection, prompt treatment and regular monitoring can help to control glaucoma and reduce vision loss. South Georgia | North Florida Eye Partners diagnoses and treats all types of glaucoma with individual treatment plans. Call Eye Partners today to set up an appointment if you feel you are showing signs of glaucoma and would like to start taking control of your eye health.