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Glaucoma and Treatment Options

Glaucoma and Treatment Options Jefferson CityGlaucoma is an eye disease that slowly and painlessly steals away your sight. Glaucoma is often called the"silent thief of sight" because it has no symptoms. However, it is the second leading cause of blindness in the United States, and half of the people who have glaucoma don’t know that they have the disease and are not aware that they are at risk of potentially severe vision loss. 


Risk Factors for Glaucoma

The cause of glaucoma is unknown, but there are several risk factors that increase your risk of developing glaucoma:

  • High eye pressure (called intraocular pressure, or IOP)
  • Older age
  • Being African-American or Hispanic
  • Having a family history of glaucoma

Anyone with any of these risk factors should get regular eye examinations to check for glaucoma. Click here to request an appointment.

Most Common Types of Glaucoma

Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma

In primary open-angle glaucoma, the drainage angle formed by the cornea and the iris remains open, but the microscopic drainage channels in the angle (called the trabecular meshwork) are partially blocked, causing the aqueous humor to drain out of the eye too slowly. This leads to fluid backup and a gradual increase of pressure within your eye. Damage to the optic nerve is painless and so slow that a large portion of your vision can be lost before you're even aware of a problem.

Closed Angle Glaucoma

Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when the iris bulges forward to narrow or block the drainage angle formed by the cornea and the iris. As a result, aqueous fluid can no longer reach the trabecular meshwork, and eye pressure increases abruptly. Closed-angle glaucoma most commonly occurs suddenly, but it can also occur gradually.

Many people who develop closed-angle glaucoma have an abnormally narrow drainage angle to begin with. This narrow angle may never cause any problems, so it may go undetected for life.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Symptoms of GlaucomaThe most common types of glaucoma - primary open-angle glaucoma and closed-angle glaucoma - have completely different symptoms.

Primary open-angle glaucoma signs and symptoms include:

  • Gradual loss of peripheral vision, usually in both eyes
  • Tunnel vision in the advanced stages

Closed-angle glaucoma signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting (accompanying the severe eye pain)
  • Sudden onset of visual disturbance, often in low light
  • Blurred vision
  • Halos around lights
  • Reddening of the eye

Treatment Options for Glaucoma

Eye Drops

A number of medications are currently in use to treat glaucoma. Your Capitol Eye Care doctor may prescribe a combination of medications or change your prescription over time to reduce side effects or provide a more effective treatment. Typically medications are intended to reduce elevated intraocular pressure and prevent damage to the optic nerve.

Trabeculectomy (Filtration Surgery)

During trabeculectomy (also called filtration surgery), a new drainage opening is created to bypass the clogged drainage channels of the trabecular meshwork. The opening is partially covered with a flap of tissue from the sclera (the white part of the eye) and the conjunctiva (the clear thin covering over the sclera). This new opening allows fluid to drain out of the eye under the conjunctiva and form a little blister, or bubble, called a bleb. The bleb is located just under the upper eyelid, where it is not visible.

Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty (SLT)

SLT is a laser that treats the drain directly to help increase the outflow of fluid. It treats specific cells"selectively," leaving the trabecular meshwork intact. For this reason, SLT may be safely repeated. It is not painful, and often can be an alternative to eye drops in early open-angle glaucoma.

Laser Peripheral Iridotomy (LPI)

Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when the iris bulges forward to narrow or block the drainage angle formed by the cornea and the iris. As a result, aqueous fluid can no longer reach the trabecular meshwork at the angle. LPI creates a small hole in the iris, allowing it to fall away from the drainage angle and unblock the drain.