How Can Treatment of Glaucoma Slow Down or Prevent Blindness?
Glaucoma is the eye condition that damages the optic nerve of the eye, which plays a significant role for a good vision. This condition can affect people of any age but it is more common in older people. Glaucoma is the primary cause of blindness in United States. The affect of this condition is very gradual that most of the people who are affected with it do not experience any symptoms or change in their vision until the condition becomes advanced. Early diagnosis and a proper treatment plan can slow down or prevent the additional vision loss. So, it’s important for you to have regular eye checkups and exams that help in timely diagnosis.
Let’s see the types, signs and symptoms, causes, risk factors, diagnosis of Glaucoma and how the treatment of Glaucoma can slow down the serious vision loss.
What is Glaucoma?
It is the eye disease that damages the optic nerve of the eye, which supplies the visual information to the brain from your eyes. This damage occurs due to abnormal high pressure inside the eye, which erodes the optic nerve tissue leading to vision loss.
What are the types of Glaucoma?
The two main types of Glaucoma are:
Open-Angle Glaucoma is the most common type and also called as wide-angle Glaucoma. In this type, the angle where iris (colored part of eye) meets cornea (front layer of eye) is wide enough as it should be, but the drainage canals of the eye become clogged over time which increases the pressure inside the eye leading to damage the optic nerve. It is chronic form of Glaucoma because vision loss appears gradually.
Angle Closure Glaucoma:
It is less common form and also called as narrow-angle Glaucoma or acute Glaucoma, in which the angle between iris and cornea is narrow and closed. The drainage canals become blocked which results in a sudden increase in eye pressure. It develops very quickly and so immediate medical attention should be given to the patient as soon the symptoms appear. Unlike the open-angle, this type is the result of angle between iris and cornea that becomes closed.
What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?
The symptoms of Glaucoma vary depending on the type and stage of the condition. Symptoms of open-angle Glaucoma include:
- Patchy blind spots in central and peripheral (side) vision frequently in both eyes.
- Tunnel vision, that develops in advanced stages. It is loss of peripheral vision with retention of the central vision and this result in constricted circular tunnel like vision.
Symptoms of angle-closure Glaucoma include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe headache
- Severe eye pain
- Eye redness
- Sudden blurred vision
- Seeing halos around lights
If you experience any of these symptoms of angle-closure Glaucoma then immediately consult the eye doctor.
What causes Glaucoma?
The back of the eye is continuously making a clear fluid called as aqueous humor. When this fluid is made then it fills the front part of the eye (anterior chamber) through the tissue (trabecular meshwork) at an angle where iris and cornea meets and after that it leaves your eye through channels in iris and cornea. When this fluid is overproduced or drainage system doesn’t work properly due to the blockage in the channels then the fluid cannot flow out at its normal rate and as a result the natural pressure inside the eye, called as intraocular pressure (IOP) builds up. This increased IOP damages the optic nerve which progresses and results in losing the eye sight. The exact Glaucoma cause which increases the eye pressure is still unknown, but doctors believe that one or more factors, which are dilating eye drops, medications such as corticosteroids, blocked drainage in eye, reduced blood flow to optic nerve and high blood pressure may play a key role.
What factors increases the risk of developing Glaucoma?
As the chronic form of Glaucoma can permanently destroy the vision before any symptoms appear, so you must be aware of the factors that increases the risk of developing Glaucoma:
- High pressure inside eye (IOP)
- Being over the age of 60
- Being black or Hispanic
- Family history of the disease
- History of eye injury or eye surgery
- Certain medications, such as corticosteroids
- Certain eye conditions such as nearsightedness
- Early estrogen deficiency which may occur after the removal of both ovaries before age 43
- Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and sickle cell anemia
How is Glaucoma diagnosed?
The eye doctor or ophthalmologist performs complete eye examination in order to diagnose the condition and after that he/she reviews your medical history. The eye doctor also asks about your general health to determine if you are experiencing any other health condition that is impacting your eye health. The tests which the doctor may perform include:
- Tonometry test is used to measure intraocular pressure.
- Test is performed for optic nerve damage.
- Visual field test is used to check the areas of vision loss.
- Pachymetry test is used for measuring thickness of cornea.
- Gonioscopy is used to inspect the drainage angle.
How is Glaucoma treated?
Although the damaged caused by Glaucoma cannot be reversed but proper treatment plan and regular checkups can help in slowing down and preventing the vision loss especially when it is timely diagnosed at early stage. The main goal of the Glaucoma treatment is to lower the intraocular pressure. Depending on the individual condition, the treatment options include eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment and surgery.
The treatment usually starts with prescription eye drops and these help in decreasing the pressure by improving the fluid that drains from the eye or decreasing the fluid amount that your eye makes. Some of the main prescription eye drops may include:
- Prostaglandins: It increases outflow of the aqueous humor eye fluid.
- Beta blockers: They reduce the production of aqueous humor.
- Alpha-adrenergic agonists: They reduce eye fluid production and increase outflow of the fluid.
- Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors: These medications are rarely used and they reduce the fluid production.
- Miotic or cholinergic agents: They also increase outflow of the fluid from the eye.
If the pressure inside the eye didn’t drop to the desired level then the eye doctor prescribes oral medication.
Surgery and other treatments:
Various surgical procedures and laser therapy can be used as other treatment options. Following are the techniques that improve the drainage of the eye fluid and lower the pressure:
Laser trabeculoplasty is the treatment option for open-angle Glaucoma. The procedure is performed in the doctor’s office. During the procedure, the doctor uses a laser beam to open the clogged channels. The results may take few weeks to appear.
This surgical procedure is called as trabeculectomy, in which the eye surgeon creates an opening in white part of the eye (sclera) and removes part of trabecular meshwork.
In this procedure, the surgeon makes drainage path for the fluid in the eye by inserting a small tube in the eye.
It is a minimally invasive procedure in which the tissue in the trabecular meshwork is removed by using a small electrocautery device, called as Trabecutome.
Schedule eye exams:
Remember, Glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss without timely diagnosis and treatment. Regular eye exam is the key to diagnose the condition early enough which successfully slow down or prevent the vision loss. American Academy of Ophthalmologists provide below guidelines for Glaucoma screening:
- If you don’t have any risk factors of developing the condition and you are at beginning of age 40 then you need to have screening every four years.
- If you have risk of developing the condition and you are over the age of 65 then you need to have screening every two years.
You can contact board certified, experienced, trained and capable ophthalmologists at Menger Eye Centers in NYC for the eye exams, diagnosis and best treatment of Glaucoma in Glendale, NYC. The eye doctors tailor a complete treatment plan according to the condition and needs of every patient.