Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness for people over 60 years old. But blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.
There are two major types of glaucoma.
This is the most common type of glaucoma. It happens gradually, where the eye does not drain fluid as well as it should (like a clogged drain). As a result, eye pressure builds and starts to damage the optic nerve. This type of glaucoma is painless and causes no vision changes at first.
Some people can have optic nerves that are sensitive to normal eye pressure. This means their risk of getting glaucoma is higher than normal. Regular eye exams are important to find early signs of damage to their optic nerve.
This type happens when someone’s iris is very close to the drainage angle in their eye. The iris can end up blocking the drainage angle. You can think of it like a piece of paper sliding over a sink drain. When the drainage angle gets completely blocked, eye pressure rises very quickly. This is called an acute attack. It is a true eye emergency, and you should call your ophthalmologist right away or you might go blind.
Here are the signs of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack:
• Your vision is suddenly blurry
• You have severe eye pain
• You have a headache
• You feel sick to your stomach (nausea)
• You throw up (vomit)
• You see rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights
If you experience any of the above, you should seek urgent help from your eye care provider.
Glaucoma damage is permanent—it cannot be reversed. But medicine, laser treatment and surgery can help to stop further damage. To treat glaucoma, your ophthalmologist may use one or more of the following treatments.
Glaucoma is usually controlled with eye drop medicine. Used every day, these eye drops lower eye pressure. Some do this by reducing the amount of aqueous fluid the eye makes. Others reduce pressure by helping fluid flow better through the drainage angle.
There are two main types of laser surgery to treat glaucoma. They help aqueous drain from the eye. These procedures are usually done in the clinic as an outpatient procedure.
Trabeculoplasty. This laser procedure is for people who have open-angle glaucoma. The eye surgeon uses a laser to make the drainage angle work better. That way fluid flows out properly and eye pressure is reduced.
Iridotomy. This is for people who have angle-closure glaucoma. The ophthalmologist uses a laser to create a tiny hole in the iris. This hole helps fluid flow to the drainage angle.
If the glaucoma progresses in spite of medical and laser treatment then a surgical procedure may be required to create a new drainage channel for the fluid inside the eye (aqueous humor) to leave the eye.
In this procedure the surgeon creates a tiny flap in the white part of the eye (sclera). He or she will also create a bubble (like a pocket) in the conjunctiva called a filtration bleb. It is usually hidden under the upper eyelid and cannot be seen. Fluid from inside the eye (aqueous humor) will be able to drain out of the eye through the flap and into the bleb. In the bleb, the fluid is absorbed by tissue around your eye, lowering eye pressure.
Recent advances in technology has led to the development of a new type of surgical procedure for glaucoma termed Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery. This procedure has much less complication to the traditional drainage operation (trabeculectomy). Read more