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Glaucoma Center

Over 2.7 million people over the age of 40 living in the United States have glaucoma, but half of them do not realize it because there are often no warning signs or symptoms.  Glaucoma is known as the silent thief of sight because it silently steals your vision without you even realizing it. If you do not have routine eye exams to check the status of your eye health, glaucoma and other diseases will steal your vision. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the U.S. and the leading cause of preventable blindness. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, approximately 2.2 million Americans age 40 and older have glaucoma.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma TucsonGlaucoma occurs when the optic nerve (the nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the brain) is damaged due to a high fluid pressure level within the eye. This can cause a significant deterioration of vision, and in more severe cases, requires surgery to fully treat. Glaucoma surgery is designed to decrease the production of intraocular fluid, and/or increase the drainage of this fluid. This can be accomplished either through incision, or laser based surgeries.

Glaucoma diagnosis

Everyone should receive a glaucoma examination around age 35 and again at 40. People who have a family history of glaucoma, are diabetic, nearsighted, over 35 years of age, or are African American should have their ocular pressure checked every year or two after their initial exam, as they are more likely to develop this disease. A thorough examination for glaucoma should include the measurement of intra occular pressure (IOP). However, since some eyes can have glaucoma without high IOP (intraocular pressure or eye pressure), a careful examination of the optic nerve looking for glaucoma damage is also very important. If the IOP is high or the optic nerve looks damaged (or both), a special test called a visual field test should be performed. The visual field test shows whether or not you’ve had any visual field loss.

Am I at risk for glaucoma?

There are several risk factors that increase your risk of developing glaucoma. These include high eye pressure, older age, being African-American or Hispanic, and having a family history of glaucoma. Anyone with any of these risk factors should get regular eye examinations to look for glaucoma.

Types of glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease, is caused by insufficient fuid drainage of the canal in the eye (trabecular meshwork). It is incurable but controllable, and early treatment may minimize vision loss.

In narrow-angle glaucoma – a much rarer, but more serious form of glaucoma – accumulated ocular fluid pushes the iris against the lens, completely blocking the drainage canals. This causes the ocular pressure to rise suddenly and quite rapidly, which can cause blindness in as few as three days after onset if untreated.
 

Glaucoma Treatment Options

Glaucoma Eye Drops

Glaucoma Treatment TucsonPrescription eye drops for glaucoma may help maintain the pressure in your eye at a healthy level and are an important part of the treatment routine for many people. Be sure your doctor knows about any other drugs you may be taking (including over-the-counter items like vitamins, aspirin, and herbal supplements) and about any allergies you may have. As any medications, these eye drops have side effects which can be tolerated by the many patients but sometimes due to general health of the patient, some types of eye drops cannot be given.

Trabeculectomy

The most common type of incision surgery is a trabeculectomy. During this procedure, a small incision is made into the sclera of the eye. A flap of tissue is then used to cover the incision, allowing for the slow release of fluid. A trabeculectomy is usually performed only if laser surgery is no longer an option.

What Is Laser Trabeculoplasty/Selective Laser Trabecoloplasty (SLT)?


SLT TucsonA trabeculoplasty utilizes a cool laser to target individual cells in the part of the eye responsible for fluid drainage. As the eye heals, the area opens up, promoting drainage and relieving pressure from surrounding nerves. Because the laser only targets melanin cells, no additional damage is caused to the eye’s functioning tissues. Traditionally, this procedure has been performed using argon laser trabeculoplasty. Although this technique still produces positive results, many doctors are now using selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), which uses a lower-power laser for minimal discomfort and side effects.  Laser surgery for glaucoma typically takes around 15 minutes, and uses lasers instead of incisions to open the drainage channels, and reduce eye pressure. Recovery time is less than that of conventional glaucoma surgery, and patients may resume normal activity almost immediately following the procedure.