Glaucoma & Glaucoma Treatment Options
Have you been told that you are in the beginning stages of glaucoma? Like many people you may feel alarmed if you have been recently diagnosed with glaucoma. Most people do not realize that almost two and a half million people actually have Glaucoma. More than half of these people do not even realize they have the disease because there are often no warning symptoms. This is exactly why glaucoma is known as the “silent-thief” of sight, because it silently steals your vision, without you even realizing it. If you do not have routine eye exams to check the status of your eye health, glaucoma and other diseases will steal your vision. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and the leading cause of preventable blindness. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, approximately 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older have glaucoma.
Glaucoma Risk Factors
The cause of glaucoma is unknown, but there are several risk factors that increase your risk of developing glaucoma. These include high eye pressure (called intraocular pressure, or IOP), older age, being African-American or Hispanic, and having a family history of glaucoma. Anyone with any of these risk factors should have regular eye exams.
Glaucoma damages vision by destroying the optic nerve, which connects your eye to your brain, and carries visual information to your brain for processing. When the optic nerve is damaged from glaucoma, you lose your vision. Your peripheral vision—or side vision—is lost first. If the glaucoma remains untreated, the vision loss creeps in toward the center, first causing tunnel vision, and then, eventually, blindness.
Glaucoma Treatment Options
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)
In Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) laser energy is delivered to the drainage system of the eye, the trabecular meshwork. This treatment is extremely safe and is well tolerated by patients. The SLT technique is very gentle, and studies show that it does not damage the tissue of the drainage system. This glaucoma treatment takes only minutes to apply, and there is usually no discomfort felt by the patient. Following the laser treatment, one usually continues any existing glaucoma drops. After several weeks a follow up appointment will be required to evaluate the intraocular pressure. We will then determine how successful the procedure has been.
The iStent Trabecular Micro-Bypass Stent System is sanctioned for people with glaucoma who also have a cataract. The stent, along with surgery to remove the cataract, is designed to prevent damage to the optic nerve caused by high pressure inside the eye.
iStent is the first MIGS device that improves your eye’s natural fluid outflow to safely lower eye pressure by creating a permanent opening in the trabecular meshwork. The iStent has been proven safe and effective.
What is MicroPulse Laser Treatment?
MicroPulse laser is a gentle technique that is less disruptive to the eye than standard laser treatment. The laser energy focused on the eye is delivered in tiny pulses rather than longer, continuous wavelengths. The microsecond bursts of energy allow time for tissue to respond in between pulses, discouraging heat buildup that could cause thermal damage. At the same time, the laser energy is sufficient enough to achieve profound clinical effects.
The procedure is generally comfortable for most patients. Some patients describe feeling a mild twinge as the laser contacts relevant parts of the eye. However, MicroPulse laser technology is gentle enough that the procedure can be repeated over time as needed to manage intraocular pressure.
What is Trabeculectomy?
Trabeculectomy is a surgical procedure performed by an ophthalmologist that is used to lower eye pressure. By trying to lower the eye pressure, damage can be halted from further pressure increases. Damage already caused by glaucoma is not reversible. The Trabeculectomy procedure involves the surgeon creating a tiny passageway from the inside to the outside of your eye. This helps fluid drain better from the areas it is presently not draining. A Trabeculectomy can lower the pressure in your eye and help prevent more damage to the optic nerve.
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