Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve, leading to loss of vision due to a build-up of pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure).
Glaucoma has been nicknamed the “sneak thief of sight” because the loss of vision normally occurs gradually over a long period of time and is often only recognized when the disease is quite advanced. Once lost, this damaged visual field can never be recovered.
- Glaucoma affects 1 in 200 people aged 50 and younger and 1 in 10 over the age of 80.
- Worldwide it is the second leading cause of blindness.
If the condition is detected early enough, it is possible to arrest the development or slow the progression with medical and surgical means. Regular eye checkups are essential for the detection and management of glaucoma.
Types of Glaucoma
Glaucoma can be divided into two main categories:
- Open angle
- Narrow angle/closed angle
Open Angle Glaucoma
Open angle, chronic glaucoma tends to progress slowly. You may not notice that you have lost vision until the disease has progressed significantly.
Narrow Angle Glaucoma/Closed Angle Glaucoma
Narrow angle glaucoma can appear suddenly and is often painful; visual loss can progress quickly but the discomfort often leads patients to seek medical attention before permanent damage occurs.
Pills and eye drops can be used to treat primary open angle glaucoma. Although these options are not a cure, they can be used successfully to help you retain your vision. Drops and pills can also be used for narrow angle glaucoma in addition to medicine that may be administered through an IV. This will lower the pressure within an eye immediately.
Glaucoma Laser Surgery
A surgery called laser trabeculoplasty is often used to treat open angle glaucoma. During this surgery, a laser makes tiny, evenly spaced burns in the trabecular meshwork. The laser does not create new drainage holes, but rather stimulates the drain to function more efficiently.
Even if laser trabeculoplasty is successful, most patients continue taking glaucoma medications after surgery. For many, this surgery is not a permanent solution. Nearly half who receive this surgery develop increased eye pressure again within five years. Many people who have had a successful laser trabeculoplasty have a repeat treatment.
Laser trabeculoplasty can also be used as a first line of treatment for patients who are unwilling or unable to use glaucoma eye drops.
Laser iridotomy is recommended for treating people with narrow angle glaucoma and those with very narrow drainage angles. A laser creates a small hole about the size of a pinhead through the top part of the iris to improve the flow of aqueous fluid to the drainage angle. This hole is hidden from view by the upper eyelid.
Glaucoma Filtering Microsurgery
Glaucoma filtering microsurgery is usually reserved for patients that may not be a candidate for laser surgery. During this procedure, the surgeon will create a very tiny new drainage canal to allow the fluid to bypass the original canals and drain through the new canal. This process may be repeated if necessary and can be completed multiple times without substantial risk.
The most important thing about glaucoma is getting diagnosed and receiving treatment early. If you think you may have glaucoma in Rapid City, call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors.