What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is actually a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for connecting the back of the eye (retina) to the brain. Glaucoma is usually caused by an increase in the fluid pressure in the eye – either because of overproduction of fluid or when the drainage system of the eye becomes blocked. The higher pressure inside the eye can cause damage to the optic nerve, resulting in permanent vision loss.
The doctors at NewView Eye Center provide diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma in Reston, VA.
Types of Glaucoma
- Open-angle glaucoma (most common): fluid builds up in the eye due to a blockage in the trabecular meshwork which leads to elevated eye pressure.
- Angle-closure glaucoma: the iris blocks part of the angle of the eye so fluid cannot drain properly. This leads to a sudden increase in eye pressure and is a medical emergency.
- Congenital glaucoma: present at birth, the angle of the eye does not allow for proper drainage of fluid.
- Secondary glaucoma: this develops as a complication of another eye surgery, injury, disease or other eye conditions.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. It is estimated that over 3 million Americans have glaucoma but only half are aware of the condition. Although glaucoma can occur at any age, the risk of developing glaucoma increases dramatically after age 60. Other risk factors for glaucoma include:
- Family history of glaucoma
- Presence of diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure
- Trauma to the eye
- Certain eye conditions (thin corneas, retinal detachment, etc.)
- Race (African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Alaskans and Japanese are at higher risk)
- Naturally high intraocular pressure
Remember, vision loss from glaucoma is permanent but can usually be prevented with early detection and treatment. That means that regular eye exams are especially important for people over age 60 or those in other high risk groups.
Contact us today to schedule an eye exam in Reston, VA, to find out if glaucoma is silently stealing your vision.
Glaucoma is often called the silent thief of sight because there are no obvious symptoms with the most common type of the disorder: open-angle glaucoma. Most people do not detect a change in their vision until there has actually been a significant loss of vision. Unfortunately, vision loss from glaucoma is permanent.
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. An estimated 3 million Americans have glaucoma but only half know they have the condition.
In most cases, glaucoma can be detected during routine eye exams. Special instruments are used to check the fluid pressures in the eye and a magnifying lens is used to examine the drainage channels for proper fluid outflow.
Symptoms of Later Stage Open-Angle Glaucoma
- Mild headache
- Night vision difficulties
- Blind spots in both eyes
- Tunnel vision
Symptoms of Angle-Closure Glaucoma
With angle-closure glaucoma, there will be a sudden increase in eye pressure. This is a medical emergency because it can destroy vision very quickly. Symptoms may include:
- Blurred vision
- Severe eye pain
- Halos around lights
- Severe headache
Although there is no medical cure for glaucoma, with early detection and treatment, glaucoma can almost always be controlled and vision preserved.
Even if you are not experiencing any vision changes, it is very important to have regular eye exams so your doctor can identify these types of silent eye conditions. Stay proactive with your eye health: schedule an eye exam today. Our glaucoma doctors in Reston, VA, can help preserve your precious vision.
Although there is no medical cure for glaucoma, the condition can be treated and managed to help slow vision loss and preserve your vision. The earlier your condition is diagnosed the more effective treatment will be.
Our Reston, VA, glaucoma doctors at NewView Eye Center offer the following glaucoma treatment options to reduce eye pressure:
- Medicated eye drops
- Oral medications
- Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)
- Drainage tubes (shunts)
- Laser peripheral iridotomy
- Trabeculectomy (filtration surgery)
- Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS)
There are a variety of medicated eye drops that can be prescribed to decrease eye pressure. Your doctor may prescribe drops that increase the outflow of fluid, reduce the production of fluid or drops that achieve both.
Oral medication can be a stand-alone option or supplement the medicated eye drops. A commonly prescribed medication is a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor.
Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)
Laser energy is used to clear blocked channels in the trabecular meshwork. Specific cells are treated during the process. The results are not instant; it may take 1-3 months for eye pressure to lower.
YAG Laser Peripheral Iridotomy
For closed-angle glaucoma, YAG laser peripheral iridotomy (YAG PI) is used for both prevention and management of glaucoma. The eye anatomy of patients with closed-angle glaucoma is such that the angle between where the cornea and the iris meet is closed, preventing fluid from escaping from the eye. This causes a gradual or sudden rise in eye pressure.
Our doctors can identify closed-angle glaucoma in early or late stages and perform YAG PI to create a hole in the outer edge of the iris with a laser to widen the opening. This allows the trabecular meshwork in the area to allow fluid to flow properly, thus reducing eye pressure. While this procedure won’t improve your vision, it may prevent glaucoma from occurring or progressing further. You may experience temporary blurry vision and light sensitivity after the procedure. We may recommend anti-inflammatory eye drops to aid in the healing process.
Drainage Tubes (Shunts)
A flexible tube is inserted into the drainage area of the eye to promote fluid escape. This is typically done after other methods of treatment have been explored. SLT is now offered as a First Line treatment and it can be repeated if necessary. The SLT procedure is performed in-office at NewView Eye Center.
Laser Peripheral Iridotomy
A laser is used to create a small hole on the outer edge of the iris for fluid release. This can be used as a preventative measure for people with narrow drainage areas in the eye or to treat existing glaucoma.
Trabeculectomy (Filtration Surgery)
This is also called conventional glaucoma surgery. A small hole is made in the white of the eye to create a new drainage flap for fluid to drain through at a desired rate.
The right treatment(s) for your eyes will depend on the type of glaucoma you have, the severity of your condition and your overall eye health. If you have glaucoma you will need to be regularly monitored to ensure that your treatment is working. By keeping your eye pressure within a normal range for your unique eyes, we may be able to protect your optic nerve from further damage.
Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS)
We may recommend a MIGS procedure to increase the flow of fluids from your eye, lower your intraocular pressure and protect your optic nerve. There are several different procedures that fall under this category, but all require only tiny incisions and cause less trauma to the eye than other types of surgeries. The MIGS procedure may be done with a microscopic tube inserted into the eye to drain fluid (microtrabeculectomy), placing a tiny stent into the trabecular meshwork, inserting tiny shunts (tubes) into the eye or using laser treatment procedures.
To learn more about the glaucoma treatment options available, contact us today to schedule an eye exam.