Glaucoma and Laser

Healthy Eye Illustration

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a potentially blinding eye condition that manifests in different ways. Because the signs, symptoms, and treatment of the different types of glaucoma are so varied, one person with glaucoma may have sudden pain and redness, while another may have no symptoms at all.

In general, glaucoma is an eye condition that develops when too much pressure builds up inside of the eye. It tends to be inherited and may not show up until later in life. The increased pressure, called intraocular pressure (IOP), can damage the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. If damage to the optic nerve from high IOP continues, glaucoma will cause loss of vision. Without treatment, glaucoma can cause total, permanent blindness within a few years.

Normal optic nerve, healthy color, plump. Glaucomatous optic nerve, pale, cupped out.  Much of the healthy nerve is gone.

Normal optic nerve, healthy color, plump

Glaucomatous optic nerve, pale, cupped out. Much of the healthy nerve is gone

Glaucoma Illustration

There are two main types of glaucoma - open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is also referred to as wide-angle glaucoma and is the most common type of glaucoma. The structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the eye's filter, called the trabecular meshwork.

Angle-closure glaucoma, also called acute or chronic angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma, is less common than open-angle glaucoma, but can cause a sudden build-up of pressure in the eye. Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea (where a drainage channel for the eye is located) is too narrow. Or, the pupil opens too wide, narrowing the angle and blocking the flow of the fluid through that channel. If untreated this type of glaucoma is VERY serious and can lead to blindness over a period of a few hours.

What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

For most people there are usually few or no symptoms of glaucoma. The first sign of glaucoma is often the loss of peripheral or side vision, which can go unnoticed until late in the disease. Detecting glaucoma early is one reason you should have a complete exam from an eye specialist every year. Occasionally, IOP can rise to severe levels. In these cases sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision, or the appearance of halos around lights may occur.

If you have any combination of the following symptoms, contact us immediately:

  • Seeing halos around lights.
  • Narrowing of vision (tunnel vision).
  • Vision loss.
  • Redness in the eye.
  • Eyes that look hazy.
  • Nausea or vomiting (associated with eye pain).
  • Pain in the eye.

Who Does Gluacoma Affect?

Glaucoma most often occurs in adults over age 60, but it can also occur in young adults or children and is more common in those of African descent. In addition, if you have a history of glaucoma in your family, have poor vision (in particular, are severely nearsighted or farsighted, or diabetes, you are at a greater risk of developing glaucoma than those individuals who do not.

How to Avoid the Progression of Glaucoma

Most of the risk factors such as age, race, and genetics for glaucoma are beyond your control. However, because most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from this increased pressure, it is important to see your eye care professional regularly so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before long-term vision loss occurs. If there is a history of glaucoma in your family or if you have other risk factors for glaucoma, talk with your health professional about having more frequent exams.

How Is Glaucoma Treated?

Glaucoma treatment often includes eye drops and/or laser treatment.

Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT) is a light laser treatment to the trabecular meshwork of the eye that increases the fluid outflow of the eye, lowering your pressure. It can be effective for 1-3 years, and in some cases longer. It is very safe and can be repeated. Are you tired of taking eye drops? Consider an evaluation by one of our surgeons to see if we can relieve some or all of your glaucoma drops with SLT. Not all patients are good candidates for SLT. At The Anderson Center for Sight, our doctors have over 20 years combined experience with SLT and have performed numerous laser procedures for glaucoma. As with all procedures there can be risks including eye inflammation, elevated eye pressure, and need for more treatment.

For narrow angle glaucoma our surgeons are experienced in both peripheral iridotomy (creating a hole in the iris to allow fluid to drain normally) and iridoplasty (shrinking the peripheral iris with laser to return the eye to itís normal anatomical state, allowing fluid to better drain from the eye and lowering pressure. The side effects may include bleeding, inflammation, elevated eye pressure and rarely retreatment.

Eye drop treatments reduce the formation of fluid in the front of the eye or increase its outflow. Side effects of glaucoma drops may include redness of the eyes, brief stinging or visual blurring, and irritated eyes. Be aware that some glaucoma medications may affect the heart and lungs. Our doctors are very familiar with the medications and treatments for glaucoma and will work with you to formulate a specialized individual treatment for your particular type of glaucoma.

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