If you’ve recently been diagnosed with glaucoma, it’s likely you have many questions. How do I live with glaucoma, what are my treatment options, what do I do now?
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is one of several eye diseases that affects the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the part of the eye that transmits visual signals from the eye to the brain. These signals are then translated into the image that you see.
When you have glaucoma, you may not realize it at first. Much of the early loss of vision associated with glaucoma is peripheral.
By the time patients realize something is not right, significant vision loss has often occurred. With glaucoma, vision lost cannot be regained. This is why glaucoma needs an early diagnosis to prevent severe vision loss.
Glaucoma occurs when high pressure puts stress on the optic nerve and causes it to lose nerve fibers. The eye works just like a sink: fluid comes in and fluid goes out. If too much fluid comes in or not enough fluid leaves, the pressure can increase. It is this increased intraocular pressure that permanently damages the eye’s optic nerve.
What are the risk factors associated with glaucoma?
The biggest risk factor for developing glaucoma is when intraocular pressure increases. Other risk factors associated with glaucoma include:
- If you have a family history of glaucoma
- If you suffer from severe nearsightedness or farsightedness
- If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or diabetes
- If you have used steroid drops or pills on a long-term basis
- If you or your family are of African or Latino descent
- If you have ever injured your eye
- If you are 60 or older
When it comes to glaucoma, it’s important to know if you are at a higher risk of developing it.
For example, someone with a family history of glaucoma should inform their eye doctor. They should also have eye exams at least once a year.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
Glaucoma can be difficult to diagnose since there are so few symptoms to watch out for.
This is why having regular eye exams is a must! The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a complete exam by age 40.
If you have an increased risk of glaucoma (like a family history) you should have a complete eye exam before 40.
Glaucoma can only be diagnosed during an eye exam! During your eye exam, expect a visual acuity test, a dilated eye evaluation, possible peripheral visual field testing and photos of the optic nerve.
Tonometry to measure the intraocular pressure is also an important part of an eye exam.
It is possible to have higher intraocular pressure without damage to the optic nerve. These patients are commonly known as “glaucoma suspects”.
If you are a glaucoma suspect, you have a higher risk of being diagnosed with glaucoma. It is important for glaucoma suspects to have regular eye exams and be under close monitoring.
Treating early stage glaucoma
If you have an early stage glaucoma diagnosis, your eye doctor will start you out with an early treatment option. This can be accomplished by reducing fluid production inside the eye or increasing the rate at which fluid leaves the eye. Early options include a safe laser treatment or a daily eye drop to reduce the pressure. Many patients with glaucoma find that their intraocular pressure stabilizes with eye drops.
Treatment options for advanced glaucoma
When glaucoma becomes more advanced, you may need a different OR-based glaucoma surgery. Two procedures that create a new path to drain fluid are a drainage device and a trabeculectomy.
With a glaucoma drainage device, a very small drainage tube gets inserted into the eye. This drainage tube is then connected to a basin that’s located under the eyelid. You cannot feel this device or see it with the naked eye.
Thanks to the drainage tube, fluid from the eye is able to drain through the tube into the basin. For patients with glaucoma, this means lowered intraocular pressure!
The second traditional method is a trabeculectomy. During a trabeculectomy, a new drain is created in the eye.
With this new drain, your surgeon creates a small flap that covers the new opening in the eye. After the trabeculectomy has finished, a filtration bleb forms under the upper eyelid.
If you need a glaucoma screening, contact Tuscaloosa Ophthalmology for an appointment today!