The month of January is Glaucoma Awareness Month, a time to shed light on what glaucoma is, how to recognize signs and symptoms, and understand your options for treatment.
What is Glaucoma?
A group of progressive diseases in which cells and fibers of the optic nerve are damaged, glaucoma affects the transmission of signals from the eye to the brain. Glaucoma is a common eye condition, with the most common being Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG). It typically occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye, with this extra fluid increasing pressure. This increased eye pressure damages the optic nerve, leading to glaucoma.
While the condition can be influenced by genes, and many people do inherit the condition, it can also be caused by other factors such as diabetes, previous eye injury, hypertension, or use of corticosteroids.
Glaucoma – Signs & Symptoms
There are often no signs or symptoms in the early stages of glaucoma, which makes regular, comprehensive eye exams that much more important. As the disease progresses, however, the following symptoms, among many others, can develop:
- Blind spots in the peripheral (side) vision
- Blurred vision
- Mild headaches
- Eye pain
As the condition worsens, vision is dramatically impacted, and irreversible blindness can occur as a result.
While there is no cure for glaucoma, symptoms can be treated to preserve sight and quality of life. The recommended treatment approach depends on the form of glaucoma, and the stage or severity of the disease.
One option for treatment is medication. Typically eyedrop medicine, drops used every day can aid in lowering eye pressure. While medicated eyedrops can help patients to keep their vision, negative side effects can occur. It is important to partner with your ophthalmologist and clearly communicate any adverse reactions you experience, so your doctor can alter your treatment plan as needed.
Another treatment option is laser surgery. There are two main types of laser surgery to treat glaucoma – trabeculoplasty and iridotomy. Trabeculoplasty (also known as Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty or SLT) is for patients with open-angle glaucoma, and can be used instead of or in addition to medications. In this surgery, a laser is used to make the drainage angle of the eye work better. This way, fluid can flow out properly and eye pressure can be reduced. The other surgical option, iridotomy, is for patients with angle-closure glaucoma. During this procedure, an ophthalmologist uses a laser to create a tiny hole in the iris, thereby helping fluid flow to the drainage angle.
Because glaucoma can occur silently and quickly, it is critical that you maintain regular, comprehensive eye exams with your ophthalmologist. If you do not have an eye doctor, or you are due for an eye exam, contact our team of specialists today to schedule an appointment. We are here to provide education on glaucoma to help quickly diagnose the disease and offer the latest treatment options to mitigate symptoms.