We all know attending regular eye examinations can be challenging. Not having enough time in the day, or simply disliking the eye doctor’s office can make this duty difficult to fulfill. However, when it comes to your eyesight, you want to be proactive. Every year, thousands of people suffer from an eye disease called glaucoma. Glaucoma, unlike many other eye diseases, does not have symptoms until permanent vision loss occurs. So, what is glaucoma, and what should you be looking out for?
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease, which, if left untreated, can result in permanent blindness. There are two primary types of this disease, open-angle glaucoma (the most common) and angle-closure glaucoma. Both types of glaucoma have the same root cause: an increase of natural fluids in the eye due to improper or blocked drainage of the eye. This excess fluid builds dangerous pressure in your eye, which can cause irreparable damage to your optic nerve. Open-angle glaucoma can occur gradually, painlessly and often, unnoticed. From there, vision loss can become severe and irreversible which is why an annual eye exam is always recommended.
In its early stages, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms. As the disease progresses, initial symptoms are decreased peripheral vision. By the time your central vision is noticeably impacted, which could take several years, the disease is far along. You should always see an ophthalmologist at the first sign of any vision changes.
Angle-Closure Glaucoma / Narrow-Angle Glaucoma
Much like open-angle glaucoma, most people develop angle-closure glaucoma (also referred to as narrow-angle glaucoma) over a long period of time and without realizing it. Unlike open-angle glaucoma, when the symptoms of angle-closure glaucoma do manifest themselves, they do so suddenly and often very painfully. In addition to headaches and eye pain, your vision may suddenly worsen and you may feel sick to your stomach. This is known as acute angle-closure or a narrow-angle glaucoma attack. At this point, the disease is dangerously far along and may be causing irreparable damage to your vision. If this occurs, you should see an ophthalmologist immediately.
While there is not yet a permanent cure for glaucoma, there are many ways to successfully treat the disease and prevent further vision loss. If caught early enough, treatment of glaucoma means no significant loss of vision. So, what are some common treatments?
The most common treatments are medicated eyedrops. These can either help reduce the amount of fluids the eye produces, or assist in draining the fluid correctly. The end result is the same: reduced pressure in the eye.
Laser Surgery is a more direct approach to ensuring the proper draining of the eye’s fluids. There are two primary procedures:
Trabeculoplasty: This is the procedure used to treat open-angle glaucoma by targeting cells that are blocking the eye’s drainage channels. The laser emits short, low-powered pulses, which remove these obstacles and helps reduce the pressure.
Iridotomy: This procedure is usually performed on patients who have angle-closure glaucoma. In this procedure, the laser is used to create a small hole in the iris, usually in the upper portion so as to remain less visible. Through this hole, fluids can drain more easily and eye pressure is reduced.
Operating Room Surgery
Trabeculectomy, or Filtration Surgery, is another common surgical treatment for those who require treatment for both of the most common types of glaucoma. In this procedure, the eye surgeon creates small channels in the whites of your eyes. These channels assist with drainage and reduce the harmful eye pressure.