Glaucoma: Catch It Early and Get the Best Care
Glaucoma is a disease that causes damage to the optic nerve. It can frequently be associated with increased intraocular pressures. If not caught early, it can lead to irreversible vision loss.
In the most common type of glaucoma, symptoms are gradual. Glaucoma often goes undetected in early stages. Untreated, it progressively destroys vision. Fortunately, early detection and disease management can help preserve your vision. We do it every day at Sabates Eye Centers.
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Because of the gradual nature of the disease, glaucoma usually presents without symptoms. Later on, tunnel vision and loss of peripheral vision can develop – followed by loss of your central vision, which is when it really becomes noticeable. Exact symptoms depend on the type of glaucoma – the two most common forms are primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG). Regular eye exams are key to catching the disease early.
Glaucoma diagnosis involves vision testing, measuring eye pressure, performing an optic nerve exam and, if necessary, further evaluation including imaging and other advanced testing.
Our glaucoma specialists begin by creating a direct visualization of your optic nerve and estimating the amount of damage incurred. They then take a photo for future comparison. The amount of vision loss can be judged with a visual field test in which flashing lights are presented to your side and central vision by a computer. Once the test is over, a diagram of your vision with many measurements can be printed out and followed over time. If progression on this vision assessment test can be documented, you may need more aggressive treatment.
How We Treat Glaucoma
Once glaucoma is diagnosed, the goal is to stop the progression of vision loss. There are currently three methods for controlling eye pressure.
Glaucoma Eye Drops
Glaucoma eye drops can turn down the faucet of the eye or make the drain of the eye function more efficiently. This serves to lower the amount of fluid in the eye and decreases the pressure being placed on your optic nerve and thus stop progressive optic nerve damage.
A laser may be fired directly into the drain of your eye to try to stimulate increased drainage. Again, this serves to lower the amount of fluid in the eye and decreases the pressure being placed on your optic nerve.
The main goal of surgery is to create a new drainage system for the eye. This can be done by fashioning a trap door on the surface of the eye to allow pressure and fluid buildup to escape when there is excess within the eye. This procedure is called a trabeculectomy. Unfortunately, your own body can create scar tissue that may close off this trap door. Therefore, anti-scarring medications may be administered around the trap door during and maybe after surgery to prevent the trap door from scarring down. Alternatively, a plastic tube can be placed into the eye that is connected to an implant that will drain the fluid directly out of the eye. Newer shunting procedures are also available.