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Glaucoma Treatment

Glaucoma Treatment

Glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness in the United States, especially for older people. Loss of sight from glaucoma is often preventable if you get treatment early enough. Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries the images we see to the brain. Many people know that glaucoma has something to do with pressure inside the eye. The higher the pressure inside the eye, the greater the chance of damage to the optic nerve.

The optic nerve is made up of a large number of nerve fibers, like an electric cable containing a huge number of wires. Glaucoma can damage nerve fibers causing blind spots to develop. Usually people don't notice these blind areas until much of the optic nerve damage has already occurred. If the entire nerve is destroyed, blindness results. Early detection and treatment by a qualified ophthalmologist are the keys to preventing optic nerve damage and blindness from glaucoma.

Clear liquid circulates inside the eye. A small amount of the fluid is produced constantly and an equal amount flows out of the eye through a microscopic drainage system. (This liquid is not part of the tears on the outer surface of the eye.) You can think of the flow of fluid as a sink with the faucet turned on all the time.

If the "drainpipe" gets clogged, water collects in the sink and the sink may overflow. Because the eye is a closed structure, the excess fluid cannot overflow if the drain is clogged. If the drainage area of the eye is blocked, the fluid pressure within the inner eye may increase which can damage the optic nerve.

High pressure alone does not mean that you have glaucoma. A qualified ophthalmologist puts together many kinds of information to determine your risk for developing the disease.

The most important risk factors include:

  • Age
  • African ancestry
  • A family history of glaucoma
  • Past injuries to the eyes

A qualified doctor will weigh all of these factors before deciding whether you need treatment for glaucoma or whether you should be monitored closely as a glaucoma suspect. If you are labeled as glaucoma suspect, it means that your risk of developing glaucoma is higher than normal.

Regular eye examinations by your ophthalmologist are the best way to detect glaucoma. During a complete and painless eye exam for glaucoma, a qualified doctor will:

  • Measure your intraocular pressure (tonometry)
  • Evaluate any optic nerve damage (ophthalmoscopy)

Glaucoma screening is now covered by Medicare if you are over 50 and

  • are African American
  • have a family history of glaucoma
  • are diabetic

Early detection is the key to preventing vision loss. Call our office at (309) 243-2400 to schedule your glaucoma screening.

Treatment Options For Glaucoma

If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, eye drops may be prescribed to control pressure in your eye. Eye drops lower eye pressure, either by decreasing the amount of aqueous fluid produced within the eye or by improving the flow through the drainage angle.

Glaucoma medications can preserve your vision, but they may also produce side effects. You should notify your ophthalmologist if you think you may be experiencing side effects.

Some eye drops may cause:

  • A stinging or itching sensation
  • Red eyes or redness of the skin surrounding the eyes
  • Changes in pulse and heartbeat
  • Changes in energy level
  • Changes in breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in sense of taste
  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Change in eye color

Drops alone may not always treat glaucoma. For more information, ask your doctor about more treatment options concerning glaucoma.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

If you have angle-closure glaucoma, your doctor may perform laser iridotomy to restore normal fluid flow and eye pressure. This laser creates a hole in the iris to improve the flow of aqueous fluid to the drain and is usually made in the upper part of the iris to avoid any visible scarring. You may return to your normal activities after the procedure. For additional information, ask you doctor about the laser iridotomy procedure.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

The Trabectome procedure uses a small probe that opens the eye’s drainage system through a tiny incision in the eye’s cornea. It removes a small portion of the eye’s natural drainage system so that it functions better. Trabectome should be used when eye drops and laser trabeculoplasty fail to reduce pressure and before trabeculectomy is considered. It is another option to treat glaucoma with less side effects.

The most common type of laser surgery performed for open angle glaucoma is called Argon Laser Trabeculoplasty, or A.L.T. A.L.T. is often recommended when eye drops cannot control pressure and the progression of glaucoma.

In A.L.T., an argon laser makes tiny, evenly spaced burns in the trabecular meshwork, the thin sponge-like drainage area of the eye. The procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and can usually be completed within 15-20 minutes. Patients may need to continue taking some glaucoma medications after A.L.T. There is usually little pain associated with the laser procedure and few complications. For more information, ask your doctor about the A.L.T. procedure.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology

The newest laser surgical option for treatment of open-angle glaucoma is called selective laser trabeculoplasty or S.L.T. During the S.L.T. procedure, your doctor directs a low frequency laser beam into the trabecular meshwork, which is the primary drainage region of the eye. The S.L.T. laser selectively treats specific cells leaving untreated portions of the trabecular meshwork intact. The procedure increases drainage of fluid out of the eye, resulting in lowered pressure in the eye. After the procedure, the patient is typically treated with anti-inflammatory eye drops for a few days and most resume normal activities within a few days. For more information, ask your doctor about the S.L.T. procedure.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology