Glaucoma is a serious eye disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, which can lead to vision loss and blindness. Although there is no cure for the disease, early treatment can usually stop the damage and protect vision.
Glaucoma is the most common cause of blindness in people over 60 years old. There are many different types of glaucoma, but open-angled glaucoma is the most prevalent type. The condition prevents the eye from draining fluid effectively, causing it to build up in the front part of the eye. This increases pressure inside the eye, which can damage the optic nerve.
Open-angled glaucoma usually begins gradually, and there are often no symptoms in the early stages. If the disease progresses, it can cause blind spots to develop in the peripheral (side) vision, which can become gradually worse over time, leading to eventual blindness. Regular eye exams are an important screening tool in detecting early signs of the disease when treatment for glaucoma is typically most effective.
How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Glaucoma screening is carried out as part of a comprehensive eye exam, which assesses your eye health and vision. It is a simple and painless procedure that involves your eye doctor carrying out a number of different glaucoma tests, which can include:
- Measuring the pressure of your eye (tonometry test)
- Inspecting your eye’s drainage passageways (gonioscopy test)
- Looking for any signs of damage to the optic nerve (ophthalmoscopy test)
- Measuring the thickness of the cornea (pachymetry test)
- Taking an image/computer measurement of the optic nerve (optical coherence tomography “OCT” test)
- Testing your peripheral vision (visual field test)
Because eye pressure can vary from person to person, it is important to have regular glaucoma tests to check that your eye pressure remains stable over time.
What Is the Best Treatment Method for Glaucoma?
Damage caused by glaucoma is permanent and cannot be reversed, but there are a variety of medications and surgeries to help prevent further damage. The best treatment for you will depend on a variety of factors, such as the type of glaucoma you have, the severity of symptoms, your age and overall health, the medications you are taking, and personal preferences. Your eye doctor will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is right for your unique situation.
Your eye doctor may recommend one of the following glaucoma treatments:
Prescription eye drops are the most common type of treatment. They’re usually used between 1 and 4 times per day and help to lower your eye pressure and prevent damage to the optic nerve, which can prevent glaucoma from getting worse. There are several types of medications available that work by either reducing the amount of aqueous fluid produced in the eye or improving fluid drainage from the eye.
Prescription glaucoma medications can help to preserve your vision, but they can sometimes cause side effects. You may need to try a few types before you find the one that is right for you. Side effects may include:
- Stinging or itching
- Redness of the eyes or around the eyes
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Changes in eye color, eyelid appearance, or to the skin around the eyes
- Changes in breathing, heartbeat, or energy levels
If medications fail to work successfully, laser treatment or surgery may be recommended to treat glaucoma. These treatments aim to improve fluid drainage from the eye. The most popular procedures include:
- Laser trabeculoplasty – to treat open-angle glaucoma. The procedure involves using a laser to open clogged drainage channels and to make the drainage angle work more efficiently. This helps to reduce eye pressure. The procedure may be used instead or in addition to glaucoma medications.
- Surgically placed drainage tubes – to treat open-angle glaucoma. Surgery involves making a tiny opening in the top of the eye to create a new drainage channel for the excess fluid in the eye to drain away, thereby lowering eye pressure.
- Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS) – may be recommended for mild glaucoma to lower eye pressure. It is a safer procedure with fewer side effects and risks compared with some other types of surgery, and it can help you recover more quickly. Some MIGS aim to improve fluid outflow within the eye’s drainage system, while some transport fluid to the outside of the eye. In some cases, this type of surgery may also be combined with cataract surgery to lower eye pressure.
Glaucoma Treatment in Miramar, South Florida
For comprehensive eye care, including glaucoma screening and treatment, visit the highly trained eye doctors at Miramar Eye Institute in South Florida. Our board-certified ophthalmologists and optometrists will work with you to ensure your eye health and vision remain at their best.