Understanding Glaucoma and Your Treatment Options

April 13th, 2018
senior man getting eye examined by eye doctor

Glaucoma doesn’t always lead to blindness. With proactive treatment, you can easily manage your symptoms and stop the condition in its early stages.

Glaucoma is the leading cause of preventable blindness in the U.S, but as many as one million Americans may not even know that they have it. Fortunately, its effects can be minimized with early detection and proactive care. We’re here to help you recognize the symptoms so that you find appropriate treatment as early as possible and continue enjoying clear, healthy eyesight.

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve — the cable at the back of the eye which transports information from the eye to the brain. Damage to the nerve prevents the brain from processing images. The damage is a product of high eye pressure, which usually results from an excess of fluids within the eye or poor intraocular drainage.

The early stages of glaucoma usually result in no noticeable symptoms, but some patients experience mild irritation, impaired night vision that can’t be corrected with glasses or contacts, a ‘halo’ effect around light sources, or weakened peripheral vision. These symptoms tend to worsen significantly as the condition progresses.

Since most patients don’t initially experience any symptoms, many patients are unaware that they have glaucoma until its later stages. Regular eye exams from an experienced eye care provider can identify glaucoma in its early phases and prevent long-term damage. You should receive an annual eye exam, particularly if you’re older than 60 or have a genetic predisposition towards glaucoma.

What Treatments are Available?

There are two primary treatments for patients with glaucoma: medicine or surgery. Both can provide effective long-term relief from the condition.

The most common medicinal solutions to glaucoma include eye drops and oral medications. A variety of medicated eye drops can lower eye pressure, reduce eye fluids, or improve fluid drainage in the eye. Ingestible pills often have similar effects and may be prescribed to supplement eye drop usage.

There are also a number of procedures that can correct glaucoma. Many patients benefit greatly from certain laser trabeculoplasty procedures, which can improve the eye’s drainage system. Others may find relief from Laser Endoscopic CycloPhotocoagulation (ECP), a procedure often performed in conjunction with cataract surgery.

In addition, the more recent iStent Trabecular Micro-Bypass stent is a surgical therapy that can improve eye pressure and fluid drainage. A number of other forms of laser eye surgery or traditional procedures (such as trabeculectomy, drainage implant surgery, or nonpenetrating surgery) may be recommended for those with unique varieties of glaucoma or those for whom other treatments proved ineffective.

Your Best Bet

Anyone can develop glaucoma, but it’s important to note that certain populations have a higher risk than others. If you’re over 35, diabetic, or African American, you should actively monitor your visual health and see an eye care provider as soon as you notice symptoms. Patients with severe nearsightedness or a family history of glaucoma should take the same precautions.

If you’re concerned about your risk of glaucoma or think you might be suffering from it, ICON Eyecare is here to help. With decades of experience across a range of specialties, our eye care professionals and surgeons can provide you with a comprehensive overview of possible treatments and will walk with you step-by-step on your road to recovery. Schedule your appointment today or give us a call at 720-524-1001.