Glaucoma’s early diagnosis and treatment can lower your risk for vision loss. It is a sneaky disease as it develops slowly, without warning, and if not caught in time, results in irreversible blindness.
Glaucoma is caused by fluid building up in the front part of your eye, increasing pressure and damaging the optic nerve.
Currently, more than 2.7 million Americans over 40 have glaucoma, but only half realize it. The age group at highest risk are people aged 40 and older.
The Glaucoma Research Foundation reports that you’re six times more likely to get glaucoma if you’re over 60. The most vulnerable populations are those with a family history of the disease. Next are African Americans, Hispanics, people with diabetes and smokers.
Glaucoma’s: The Most Common Type
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type. It happens slowly and gradually, with no warning signs in the early stages.
As new fluid flows into your eye, the same amount should drain out through a mesh-like channel. This channel is located at the base of the cornea. If it becomes blocked, less fluid can leave the eye.
The pressure in the eye gradually builds and over time can permanently damage the optic nerve.
Symptoms are the loss of peripheral vision. Since this develops slowly, most patients never realize what’s happening.
Medicated eye drops, used every day, are the most common way to lower pressure and control glaucoma.
Surgery in most cases is the only option. There are three types of surgery available, depending on the stage of the disease.
There are also two main types of laser surgery that help with fluid drainage. The most common type performed for open-angle glaucoma is selective laser trabeculoplasty. This laser increases the outflow of fluid through the mesh like channels.
The standard treatment for closed-angle glaucoma is laser peripheral iridotomy. “A laser is used to make a tiny hole in the iris to help release fluid. This procedure is usually done in the office or outpatient facility.
Traditional surgery is recommended if eye drops and laser treatments don’t work. An opening is made in the the white of the eye, which allows excess fluid to drain out of the eye and into a small reservoir. This reservoir is hidden under the upper eyelid. From there, the fluid is absorbed by tissue around the eye.
Micro surgery is recommended to those patients who want to avoid the risks of traditional surgery. They are less invasive, use microscopic size equipment, and tiny incisions.
This procedure is mostly used for those who are in the early-to-moderate stage of the disease.
Glaucoma diagnosed in time and treated, can prevent additional vision loss and prevent blindness.
The AAO recommends that adults, beginning at age 40, get regular comprehensive eye exams with an ophthalmologist. People who are 65 and older should get an eye exam every one to two years.
Those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or other risk factors, should get checked every six months.