Updated: Dec 17, 2020
As many as 3 million Americans may have glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, yet only half of them may know they have the disease.
As many as 3 million Americans may have glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness, yet only half of them may know they have the disease. There are few signs or symptoms, so without regular eye care, you could be affected without knowing until it’s too late.
The glaucoma perspective
Describing a group of conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve, glaucoma can affect people of any age, though it’s more often found in older adults. Changes to your vision are usually gradual, and there is no pain or other sign to alert you to its presence. Damage caused by glaucoma can’t be recovered, so early detection and preventive care are crucial to avoid vision loss.
Types of glaucoma
The most common form of the disease is called open-angle glaucoma. The “angle” referred to is formed by the cornea and iris and facilitates natural eye drainage. This remains open, but another part of the drainage system, the trabecular meshwork, becomes blocked and leads to gradually increasing pressure within the eye. This pressure causes damage to the optic nerve, which in turn causes vision loss. Changes occur so slowly that you could develop substantial sight loss before you notice something is wrong.
Closed-angle glaucoma happens when the iris bulges and blocks the natural drainage angle between iris and cornea. While the pressure effects are similar to the open-angle version, closed-angle glaucoma can occur suddenly, which is a medical emergency, or gradually.
You may develop optic nerve damage for no known reason, a condition called normal-tension glaucoma. It could be due to genetic reasons or from problems with blood circulation, such as atherosclerosis. Unlike other forms of the disease, the pressure within your eye doesn’t increase and cause damage to the optic nerve.
Pigmentary glaucoma happens when color granules from the iris block your eye’s drainage systems. This may be due to activities, such as running or jogging, and the periods of higher pressure may be intermittent.
Our first line of treatment for glaucoma stemming from eye pressure problems is a laser procedure called Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty ( SLT). This a fast and secure treatment performed in the office with no downtime. Patients can return to daily activities without restriction.
Another option are prescription eyedrops. Prostaglandin drops improve the drainage of your eye, while those based on beta-blockers reduce the production of eye fluid. There are other medications that duplicate one or both methods, and you may be prescribed more than a single type of eye drop if your eye pressure is sufficiently high. Oral medications can also supplement the effects of eye drops.
You could also have drainage tubes placed, part of the trabecular meshwork removed, laser treatment of the meshwork, or minimally invasive glaucoma surgery using one of a variety of surgical techniques.
Once glaucoma causes eye damage, it’s with you forever, so the importance of regular eye exams can’t be overstated. Contact the ophthalmologists at Beraja Medical Institute in Coral Gables Florida to schedule your consultation and dilated eye exam. The Beraja team will become your partner in glaucoma management, so book your appointment today.