What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the U.S. It is when the pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure or IOP) is too high causing damage to the optic nerve. If untreated, this can result in vision loss and even blindness. Glaucoma is known as the “sneaky thief of sight” because in its earliest stages there are no symptoms. As the disease progresses peripheral vision is progressively lost. Annual comprehensive eye exams are the only way to detect this condition early and begin treatment. Approximately 50% of people with glaucoma don’t know they have it.
There are various different types of glaucoma and different testing available to determine if there is any optic nerve damage present. We will assess all risk factors and the results of all testing to determine if treatment is needed. The only way to treat glaucoma is to lower the IOP. Treatment for glaucoma ranges from monitoring to daily eye drops to laser to surgery in certain cases.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)
Research shows Laser treatment is just as effective as drops for initial glaucoma treatment. This laser is conveniently done in our offices and uses very gentle laser to “clean out” the drainage channels in the eye, increasing the outflow of fluid and lowering the IOP. It is important to keep in mind that SLT does not cure glaucoma and regular monitoring will still be necessary to make sure the condition remains stable. Glaucoma drops may or may not be needed after this procedure. SLT can be safely repeated once it’s affect has begun to wear off with time.
Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery
These procedures can be performed with or without cataract surgery and provide the convenience of treating both cataracts and glaucoma at the same time. The average reduction in IOP when combined with cataract surgery was 33% and resulted in an 83% reduction in medication.
IOP Measurement is performed at each visit and this number is unique to each individual. The same pressure may be okay for one patient but too high for another. This number may also vary slightly from visit to visit. Our doctors will determine a pressure goal that gives you the best chance of not losing vision.
Pachymetry is the measurement of the thickness of the cornea. A thicker cornea is a protective factor against glaucoma.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a form of imaging that utilizes light waves to map the back of your eye. This diagnostic tool is a pain free, non-contact imaging device. OCT imaging is used in patients with glaucoma to monitor the health of the tissue around the optic nerve and determine if damage is present or progressing.
Visual field testing, allows your doctor to assess if any peripheral vision loss or abnormal blind spots in your vision are present. The test is typically performed one eye at a time with the patient’s current glasses prescription in place. In conditions such as glaucoma where the disease causes slow, progressive visual field loss, a baseline visual field is often used for comparison to subsequent tests. These comparisons allow your doctor to assess if the condition is stable or progressing over time.